Irish football is in bad state at the moment. No world cup finals for 18 years and a string of uninspiring managerial appointments have left the majority of the Country with a feeling of Apathy towards there National football team. The feel-good aspect that a potential Euro 2020 campaign will bring is sure to put a temporary mask over what has been a long-lasting drabness that has shrouded the Irish team for years and we have all been crying out for a saviour, a Jack Charlton figure who can inspire a Nation to care and believe again. Step forward Stephen Kenny a relatively young manager who has worked with underdogs before and knows the ins and outs of both the League of Ireland and the new generation of young players coming through from the underage teams. But has he really got what it takes to bring a new Ireland team forward into success in the future?
16 June 2002. Ireland lose to Spain on penalties in a match which has turned out to be Irelands last game at a World cup. In the four World cups since Ireland fans have had to enviously look on whilst teams such as Panama, Togo and Iceland have showcased their Nation on the highest stage the football world can offer as our team watches the tournament on their tv set. Stephen Kenny’s primary target when he takes the reigns from Mick McCarthy has be to get Ireland to that 2022 World Cup so that the long-lasting record of failed and sometimes embarrassing qualifying campaigns can be put to bed. Kenny has manoeuvred his way to an unlikely appearance at a major tournament in the past when his Dundalk side took Europe by storm and reached the Europa league group stages narrowly missing out on a first ever Champions League appearance from an Irish side. This showcases Kenny’s pedigree as a top tier manager who can guide a smaller team through against the odds. This in theory sounds perfect for Ireland as due to their low world ranking, they will undoubtedly not be the top team in any group they are placed into and will have to fight for every point earned in qualifying.
Kenny may have the experience of being an underdog but we cannot underestimate that he was also a serial winner in his time at Dundalk, winning five league titles along with 2 FAI cups as well as the trophies that he had previously won at Bohemians and Derry City. This experience of winning albeit at a much lower standard than the international game will be crucial to Kenny’s tenure as Ireland boss and he should be able to inject some of his winning mentality into a squad which is severely lacking it. This current crop of Irish players is crying out for some true leadership from a man who has been there and won trophies no matter what the level. There are almost zero players in the Ireland squad who have even won as much as a single trophy at club level and have been starved of success at the international stage too, and Stephen Kenny could be the man to install the hope that these players have been lacking for the last few years back into the National side.
An element which has convinced many that Kenny is the for the future of the Irish game is his vast knowledge of both the League of Ireland and of the up and coming Irish internationals through his work with the under 21 side. Kenny has managed in the League of Ireland for the best part of 20 years and he is sure to have an almost unparalleled knowledge of the league and any gems that may be hiding in it, who have been getting constantly overlooked by managers that have primarily managed in the English leagues and may have little or no prior knowledge of the League of Ireland such as McCarthy or O’Neill. This may give talented players who have a real passion for there country finally get their chance on the international stage. On top of his knowledge of the league Kenny has worked first-hand with many of the players that will undoubtedly make up the future Ireland squads and has already planted his philosophy on to players such as Aaron Connolly, Troy Parrot and Adam Idah. This experience makes Kenny a very attractive proposition as he already knows the future generation of Irish stars inside out and has put forward his views onto them at a young age.
Stephen Kenny is a man who will certainly unite the Nation behind their football team once again and play a more attractive brand of football which will inspire the team and fans to believe again. Kenny in my view is the future of the Ireland national football team and a man who has the experience to not only qualify for future tournaments but use his time as an underdog in European competition to cause a few shocks along the way. Kenny will bring through young players with massive potential and freshen up the team, which has grown stale as the same ilk of player has constantly been getting picked for the last decade or so.