Irish soccer hasn’t had its greatest year to say the least, with only 1 win since the Denmark demolishing in November of last year and being kept scoreless in 6 of the last 9 games.
Bad results coupled with poor performances have resulted in Martin O’Neil and his backroom team parting ways with the FAI.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane gave us some great memories but the current system has been stale since the Denmark hammering in the World Cup Playoff.
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Mick McCarthy has been appointed as Republic of Ireland manager for the second time 16 years after leaving the job, he will bring Terry Connor and Ireland’s all-time top goal scorer Robbie Keane to his coaching staff.
However, possibly the best news was yet to come as Stephen Kenny was confirmed as the new U/21s manager and will take over from Mick McCarthy after Euro 2020. The man on every Irish fans lips when it came to the discussion of a new manager, Kenny has proved a lot in the Irish league over the last couple of seasons and will relish the opportunity that has been given to him by the FAI.
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The only thing that halted Kenny’s appointment to the full time job straight away was the Dubliner’s inexperience outside of the League of Ireland. He had spent a season in Scotland where his Dunfermline Athletic side had a rocky season resulting in Kenny getting the sack one year after being appointed.
Still, Kenny has led his Dundalk team to two league and cup doubles in the space of three years while also leading the side to four SSE Airtricity Premier Division Titles. Kenny has also brought the Dublin side to Europe having made it to the Europa League group stages in 2016 were Dundalk became the first Irish side to ever get a point in a major European tournament.
One of the most successful managers in the Irish domestic league will finally get his crack at the whip in 2020. It is a great opportunity for Kenny who views the job as a special privilege saying last week in the Dundalk Democrat 'I think managing your country is the ultimate honour. If you offered me the job of managing Real Madrid or Barcelona or Ireland, I would choose to manage Ireland, because it's the greatest honour you can have as an Irishman.' It is clear to see the passion he will bring to the National side.
Ireland fans can only look forward to what’s ahead now but what is ahead?
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England have successfully tried this format in the form of Gareth Southgate who was the U/21 manager at England before taking over the senior squad and leading them to the World Cup semi-finals leaving the nation awe of his work.
It will be a great chance for all the youth players who play under Kenny in the U/21 squad as they know he is the future Ireland boss so if they impress him enough in the youth system they will be shoe-in to follow Kenny up to the senior squad after Euro 2020 and lead Ireland into a new era.
So, what can we expect from Kenny when it comes to the way in which he will have Ireland playing. Well by all accounts Kenny wants Ireland to play in a more European style rather than our usual hit and hope football. The Dubliner said in an interview with The Irish Times ‘Do I think that I could take charge of the next generation of Irish players and turn them into a really cohesive team; combining the best virtues of Irish sides – the honesty, work-rate and passion that we’ve shown down the years – but introducing a more European style of play, a more fluid and expansive way? Yes, I do’.
Watch: Just a year into his managerial reign in Dundalk, Kenny had his team playing fluid passing football and even scoring goals like this.
He is a man that sticks to his own values on the pitch ‘the way I view the game and I think it’s the way a lot of players love to play the game. Midfield players love to be able to join in, to receive in on the half-turn, link with their front players, there must be movement off the line from wide players, full backs overlapping, connections’ and if them values don’t work out he’ll go down with them, ‘either we succeed or we fail doing it my way but I never have compromised on that.’ With the FAI finally listening to the fans and looking at the League of Ireland as the way forward. Players being able to express their talent, determination and a high level of skill being combined together and a more progressive way of playing than seen under any other Irish manager. It could be a very exciting time to be an Irish football fan.