Stephen Kenny had his first interview as Ireland manager this week after replacing Mick McCarthy. During the interview, Kenny focused mainly on his vision for the future of the Irish national team and how he will be in control of his own team and his own ideas. The former Dundalk manager aims to bring a more possession based game to his new side. “I can’t guarantee that in every game that will work but no matter who we are playing, home or away, it will be about trying to establish control”. He continued by saying “I would like schoolboy teams and academy teams throughout the country to look at the senior international team and think, that’s how we want to play. That they connect with it at that level. That is my dream.” These are encouraging words from the new Ireland boss and it will also be music to fans’ ears as they hope for glory days ahead.
Kenny delved in his interview into the current Irish squad and singled out some of the key players he looks forward to working with. He emphasised that Ireland potentially has one of the top defences in Europe at this current time. “I was speaking to some of our analysts and we got the printout of all the back fours from the top 20 teams in the last day or two. We went through it at length and I have the document. I looked at the back four against Denmark: Doherty, Egan, Duffy and Stevens and in my informed view that is in the top 10 of back fours in Europe. That’s what I feel”. Kenny also mentioned Robbie Brady in his interview and expressed his admiration for Sheffield United’s centre- half John Egan. “I think that the addition of John Egan into the back four changes the dynamic of the back four. Rather than having two traditional number fives, that changes everything in how you play. That gives a great dimension with raiding fullbacks. With the composition of the back four it gives you a great platform to go and build the rest”. Building from the defence will certainly be key in Kenny’s new regime as Irish manager.
Seamus Coleman will be continuing on as Irish captain under Kenny. Kenny described Coleman as a “great ambassador” and “his overall commitment to Irish football makes him an absolute stand-out captain for us”. Kenny has also taken the decision to leave out Robbie Keane as part of his management team. Damien Duff, Keith Andrews and Alan Kelly were selected by Kenny to work alongside him. Kenny hailed Irish legend Robbie Keane but he insisted he has “learned as a manager what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. You learn through your experiences and you must have the ability to pick your own backroom team”. The management team will have a fresh new look to it which Kenny is confident will bring the Irish national team forward.
Kenny’s ambition is clear. His aim is to bring a new lease of life to the Irish football setup. His goal is to qualify the Irish team for the European Championships. He described Slovakia as a tough away trip but he is fully confident his team can come through the game as well as the playoffs. “Going to Slovakia and winning, then trying to win a final away from home is tough based on recent away results over a long period. It’s a tough ask, but it’s certainly not beyond us and I’m not thinking it’s beyond us. We have to be optimistic. We have to view it as an opportunity”. Irish fans will be waiting in anticipation ahead of Kenny’s new regime to begin. Let’s all hope it will be a successful one. His first interview was certainly a very encouraging one. His ambition for a team that controls the game is in line with his ambition to have a management style that controls his backroom team and the game he wants his players to play.