It is time for the FAI to make up their minds, will they stick with Stephen Kenny although the smart money does suggest that tonight’s game against New Zealand will bring the curtain down on the Stephen Kenny era.
It has been an extremely disappointing campaign that has put the Republic under severe pressure and with season ticket renewals ongoing it will be interesting to see will people put the money into securing the tickets for 2024 that will of course only see competitive action return in September of 2024 when the nations league starts after next season’s European Championships.
That will be a tough sell but like always the diehards will dip into the pocket and its then down to those on the fence about a ticket that they will need to convince, the “casual fan”. The tenure under Stephen Kenny has seen a new generation of players come through backboned by the under 21 side Kenny coached before being handed the big job.
Josh Cullen, Jason Molumby, Dara O Shea are three players that have been brought into the side with men like Will Smallbone and Adam Idah and latterly Evan Ferguson whose presence seems to instilled a small amount of belief in this group. Ferguson has been bang in form when playing for Brighton in the Premier League under Roberto De Zerbi.
Tonight is a final chance for fans to see James Mc Clean in a green shirt one last time as will win his 103rd and final cap after a debut in March 2013. He has scored a few important goals in that period namely against Wales in Cardiff. He also covered a few positions in his 10 year international career like winger, wing back and full back.
The FAI will need to go away and take their time in selecting the next manager to take the Republic forward in 2024 if it isn’t to be Stephen Kenny… A more important fixture this evening could well be the Under 21 European qualifier in Turners Cross down in Cork. It sees Jim Crawford’s team play Italy looking to redress the balance after Norway last week.
It will provide people will the chance to see the next group of talented youngsters looking to firstly create history and qualify for a major tournament at Under 21 level for the first time and then in the future kick on the represent the senior side.
The FAI Cup final between St Pats and Bohs saw a few of those Under 21s play for either side so you got a chance to see these talented lads. The league of Ireland will provide the players with meaningful game time into the future. Yes it has been the poor relation for many years. A pain that the FAI never quite knew how to set up to keep all sides happy !!
That talk will need to be parked until another time but this evening it’s a chance for two sides to start the healing process, the 21s will need to be on point to gain victory in Cork and likewise on Lansdowne Road the senior side will need to try and gain a small morale boost before this current international window slams shut.
Who you ask will the FAI look to steer the ship if Stephen Kenny’s tenure is ended after tonight’s game. Men like Lee Carsley current England under 21 boss but crucially an ex Ireland international will he look upon this as a project he would like to take on or will it be someone like Gus Poyet who only early last month was questioned would he be interested if the chance presented itself to coach this Ireland side. He did not dismiss the possibility. It will take time and patience to see who the FAI will get in to take the top job. No matter who does get the vote of confidence it will be a tough gig no matter the new person’s CV…
A word for Stephen Kenny if tonight is the be his swansong, he took on the top job with a certain style of play in mind and stuck by those principles which some may see as a step forward but more may say he wasn’t for turning and during his time in charge it was proven when they came unstuck against opposition they should have beaten and then against the likes of France or Holland when caution mixed with some of the new ball playing style may have been warranted.
He stuck rigidly to the way he knows best and that is possession based football which worked while in charge of Bohs, Dundalk in the LOI and then in Scotland with a few teams. Tonight in Dublin 4, it might just be goodbye to Mr Kenny but his work in bringing a number of new players through can’t be forgotten and may benefit the next manager to take on the Republic Of Ireland gig….