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New Ireland U21 boss Stephen Kenny admits he is unlikely to see out qualifying campaign

The outgoing Dundalk boss has emphasised that results on the pitch are not the be all and end all at underage level.

New Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny.
New Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated at 20.15

IT WAS ONE of the main messages coming out of the press conference to announce Stephen Kenny’s unveiling as the new Ireland U21 boss — results, on the field, are very much of secondary importance at that level.

It seems a fair point to make. Ireland have never qualified for a European Championships at U21 level, and that trend may continue for the foreseeable future. However, the majority of people are unlikely to care if several talented youngsters suddenly start coming through and progressing up to the senior team.

By comparison, the relative unimportance of the short-term matters on the pitch was hammered home by the fact that Kenny says he is unlikely to even be in charge of the U21s for an entire group stage.

Qualifying for the next major tournament will not end until October 2020, or November if Ireland reach the play-offs. Kenny says he has agreed in writing to take the senior position in August 2020, and the outgoing Dundalk boss consequently admits he probably will not see out the forthcoming campaign with Ireland’s youngsters.

“That all has to be discussed,” he said, when asked about the prospect of continuing with the U21s for the entirety of the qualification cycle.

It’s very unlikely because I’ll be appointed in August 2020. That is what I think. The greater good of Irish football is important and we’ll have done a lot of work in that period. That’ll be for the FAI to decide.” 

The Dubliner added that he would not continue to oversee Ireland’s underage set-up while in the senior position and said his successor with the U21s had yet to be decided upon.

Kenny also insisted he was capable of making the step up from League of Ireland to international level, adding: “Obviously, one of the advantages is that I’ve had 46 European fixtures, Champions League and Europa League. I think European football is the best preparation you can get for international football. That will serve me well.

“Sure, I’ve got a lot to learn. Over the next period, the next two years, I’ve got a great opportunity to learn. First of all, from the current international manager, Mick McCarthy, I’ve got a lot to learn from him.

“It gives me an opportunity to travel, see how the other international teams prepare; the tactical nuances of the different systems, really examine them at close quarters; the blocks of games close together in four or five days and explore the best practice for preparation.”

The 47-year-old also played down talk of a drastic overhaul of the Irish underage set-up, citing some excellent recent results, perhaps most notably by the U19s, as evidence that there is plenty of good work being done already, with FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter similarly key in this regard.

It’s not like I’m coming in starting something new. I think there’s been a sea change in philosophy since Ruud’s come in. We’ve already mentioned matches and all the teams. One of the things that have been obvious in our discussions is that the vision Ruud has as regards manager and ways of playing is similar to the one of myself. It is a bit of a meeting of minds in that regard. I’m just part of the team in that regard. Ruud has such a wide brief as technical director. He can’t be everywhere at once. It has to be a collective effort. The U21 role will be a job in itself. 

“Ireland has never qualified for the European U21 Championships in their history. Only one qualifies. It’s a difficult task. We’ll work together with all the other managers to try to improve the players.

“Hopefully all the players come out and do well at U21 level and Mick feels they’ve done well enough for him to select them. That’s the objective as well.”

You can view the full press conference here: 

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

Originally published at 15.02

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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