Kenny Had A Shocker!

Liam Brady stated after Stephen Kenny’s Ireland was defeated 2-1 by Greece that “This is the worst group of players that any manager has had in my lifetime.”

There is an article from Paul Fennessy that asks us to remember that lack of funding at lower levels and mismanagement at the highest level has us where we are.

The fact is that the above has certainly contributed to our struggles on the international stage. I have written about this myself in Stephen Kenny’s infancy as Republic of Ireland manager.

This however should not mask a couple of performances that were littered with managerial mistakes. The 3-0 victory against one of the planet’s worst sides Gibraltar was non-negotiable. Anything less would have seen Kenny out of a job.

Kenny Fights Back

The former Dundalk boss fought back against criticism after the game at the Aviva.

“I’ve been in 16 cup finals. I was in eight FAI Cup finals. I have been to two Scottish Cup finals. I won six league cups.”

“I won more trophies than anyone in (Irish Football) in modern history. I won five league titles.”

“46 Champions League and Europa League games. I beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, BATE Borisov, Gothenburg home and away, Hajduk Split and others, drew with PSG, drew with Legia Warsaw.”

“This is why I got the job because I am the most successful Irish manager at this time”


Kenny went on to remind the press that he took this team through covid where he would have 10 missing from each camp. He also highlighted that he has brought 18 players through in the last two years.

All this is valid. The Irish team has been revamped, it had to be. The team is young and gaining valuable experience with each match that passes. Kenny himself is gaining valuable experience.

Kenny has been given the last two years’ grace to develop the side. In fairness, a high percentage of supporters have been patient and understanding.

As many have said, the senior team is a results business. For Stephen Kenny and the Republic of Ireland, positive results now (especially against those teams around our level) are a perfectly reasonable expectation.

Team Selection

When the team sheet was released just before the Greece game, questions were already being asked.

Darragh Lenihan was slotted into the left-hand side of a back three. Again in fairness, the Irish boss explained before the game that he felt with Dara O’Shea’s lack of any minutes since March was reason enough to make this call.

The strange choice was placing Callum O’Dowda (on the same side as Lenihan) in the left-back position. Kenny would tell us he was playing wingback (on paper) but realistically that never happened. He was a left-back.

A winger with a lot less defensive instincts and experience than James McClean was a huge mistake to many before the game started. With O’Dowda’s direct involvement in Greece’s both goals, hindsight proved it was a fatal call from Kenny.

That decision had nothing to do with a lack of funding or any other excuse. It was a managerial decision that just failed. Managers are paid good money to get these decisions right or they pay the consequence.


Will Smallbone and Adam Idah’s inclusion scratched a few heads too?

Idah has had little impact with Norwich this season since his return. A good player but lacks goals and in an Irish jersey, he hasn’t had the same impact as Obafemi. Obafemi is busier and has recent good form in the green jersey.

Smallbone instead of Browne baffled me. Again, inexperience away from home was chosen ahead of experience. Alan Browne has rarely let himself down in a green jersey.

He has a knack for making very intelligent late runs into the box and coming up with important goals. He’s a harder worker off the ball and unlike Smallbone, he makes life difficult for the opposition in defensive situations.

Smallbone is still learning the game and no doubt will have great opportunities to make his name in the Irish jersey. As the two games showed, he was not ready and this was another poor call.

As we played five at the back there were huge gaps through the middle three which Greece exploited from very early on in the game.

Evan Ferguson

The game plan in the first half vs Greece (to get our front two involved) seemed to be knocking long balls into the channel and having our forwards chase them down.

Evan Ferguson is a striker that needs service around the box. He needs to be attacking crosses. He needs to be making diagonal runs around the box off short straight passes.

That’s where he comes alive. That’s where he scores goals from. It’s not from constantly chasing down long balls that favour opposition defenders.


At half-time, Kenny brought Mikey Johnson on and instantly we shaped up in a 5-4-1 formation. This gave the impetus to Gus Poyet’s team and they grabbed it with both hands.

Don’t let the second half fool you. Greece sat back after the goal and invited Ireland on. Three times our formation changed and each time the team looked unsure of their roles. It certainly didn’t look like a team that was away for nearly two weeks together in preparation.

As for the Gibraltar game, Kenny changed from a back three to a back two at halftime. Why wasn’t this change made after 10-15 minutes? It was plain to see Gibraltar offered zero threat going forward.

Yes, this is something small in this game. A 3-0 victory, in the end, satisfied most. It’s that sluggish decision-making in bigger games that has and will cost us.

I want Stephen Kenny to succeed, I have from the start. We had seen players and our style of football develop with a purpose in the last two years. Admittedly without results. I will be behind the team 100%in September.

This Euro 2024 campaign was always going to be make or break for Kenny’s reign. Unfortunately, the last International window has thrown up a lot of doubts about his and the team’s progression. But mostly though, his ability to see games over the line.

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