Current Irish manager Mick McCarthy is due to stay on as head coach for the remainder of the summer, as long as the Boys in Green qualify for Euro 2020. If Ireland fail to qualify for the tournament through the playoffs, it looks likely that current under 21 boss Stephen Kenny will replace McCarthy earlier than expected. Kenny will be given the chance to experiment with new side this summer if the play offs don’t go as planned.
Three friendlies have reportedly been lined up for Ireland this June, whether they qualify for the Euros or not – two in Austria and one in Limerick. Due to the Aviva stadium being a host stadium for the Euros, Ireland will play a home game on June 8th scheduled for Thomond Park in Limerick. The two games set to take place in Austria suggest there will be a pre-Euros training camp arranged if they successfully win the playoffs.
McCarthy admitted “it would be silly” if Kenny is not charge for the friendly games should Ireland fail to qualify for Euro 2020. He emphasised that “clearly, it would be beneficial to the team, the players, to everybody, for his preparations for the Nations League, that he took the games”. McCarthy is hopeful “it doesn’t happen and we’re talking hypothetically. But we’re all adults. What would be the best for the Irish national team if we lost on March 26th or 31st?” McCarthy also ruled out Kenny shadowing him on the sideline should Ireland qualify for the tournament. He told reporters “not a chance. I’ll be as candid and as brutal as that. It won’t be happening”.
Robbie Keane could potentially join Kenny’s backroom team after it emerged that Keane was on a four year deal. McCarthy said “I don’t know, he’s with me at the moment. Stephen will have his own ideas; you’ll have to ask him”. He was surprised by Keane’s contract and called it “one of those conundrums that needs to be sorted out”.
McCarthy also confirmed that he will be the manger in attendance for next month’s draw in Amsterdam for the Nations League, even though Kenny will be in charge for the campaign. UEFA indicated that the current manager of a national team will represent the association at the draw. McCarthy described his “situation as kind of different” but he reiterated “I know I’ll be going”.
Kenny’s final matches in charge of the Irish under 21 side will be in March against Iceland at home and Luxembourg away. His team are currently top of their qualifying group and need just two more wins to guarantee a playoff place. The under 21 side have impressed over the course of the campaign, many of their current players will be hopeful of a senior call up when Kenny takes over as manager.
Stephen Kenny’s appointment will excite many Irish fans. Hopefully he will arrive after a successful summer at the European Championships, with the potential of playing two home games at the tournament. If Kenny were to be employed earlier than expected, we would get to see his ideas take shape at friendlies this summer ahead of the Nations League in September. As Irish fans, we hope the next few months are successful on and off the pitch. First up are the playoffs against Slovakia in Bratislava and if successful, a trip to Northern Ireland or Bosnia for a playoff final. McCarthy pointed out that he is still “coach of the team” and wants full backing ahead of March. It’s do or die for McCarthy’s side as he aims to bring Ireland to another European Championships.