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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
James Crombie/INPHO Stephen Kenny.
# Leaks
'There may be people behind the scenes or elsewhere who want to cause problems for the team'
Stephen Kenny has addressed his motivational video and pre-game speech ahead of the England game, which he describes as a ‘non-story.’

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND manager Stephen Kenny says the story that blew up over a pre-game presentation he gave ahead of Ireland’s friendly defeat to England last month was a  ”non-story”, and said he believes it may have originated from a source without his team’s best interests at heart.

A week after the 3-0 loss at Wembley, the UK Daily Mail claimed players were upset at the political nature of a motivational video and pre-match team talk delivered by Kenny before last week’s defeat to England at Wembley. 

An FAI statement released to the Mail said they were aware of issues around content shown to the squad ahead of the game, and were “already looking into the matter as a matter of urgency in order to establish the facts.” 

Outgoing CEO Gary Owens interviewed a number of people involved – including Kenny – and the FAI concluded the Irish boss had no case to answer.

Publicly addressing the issue for the first time today, Kenny said the entire episode was overblown. 

“The video was a non-story, it was a football video, basically of goals scored by the players in training, goals scored in Wembley the night before, also with some goals from previous Ireland matches against England, with some historical references and that was it. A lot was made of it but it was very light on content.” 

Asked whether he was surprised to see the story in the Daily Mail, accompanied with an FAI statement, Kenny replied, “It was a big surprise.” 

Kenny said he didn’t feel undermined by the story appearing in public. “No, no, not at all. We wlll take it in our stride and move on, we’re not going to dwell on the situation. It’s something that happened. We will certainly move on.” 

Moving on proved difficult, with the issue dominating much of a 15-minute press conference at the FAI offices in Abbottstown. 

Kenny was clear he has no issue with his dressing room and he suggested the story originated from elsewhere, possibly with an intention of damaging the team. 

“It’s not a concern for me. The leaks were definitely not intentionally from the dressing room. I think there may be people behind the scenes or elsewhere who want to cause problems for the team or don’t have the best interests of the team, but certainly I have no problem with anyone in the dressing room.”

Asked if he knows who these people are, Kenny signalled his desire to move on to another subject. “Listen, I’ve said enough on that. That’s all I’m willing to say”, and repeated that he has no issue with his dressing room. 

Kenny later said he retains the full backing of the FAI board, “without question.” 

Goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly denied he was the source of the leak in a furious social media post last month, in which he hit out at what he saw as “media innuendo” conflating the issue with his early exit from camp. Kelly declined to join the Irish squad for their final game at home to Bulgaria, citing his asthma and concerns around Covid-19. 

Kenny also clarified Kelly “definitely did not” voice concern at the content of the motivational video prior to Kenny’s showing it to the players, as was reported. He said this claim was “a disservice to Alan.” 

The Irish boss also confirmed Kelly will return to the Irish camp for the World Cup qualifiers next March. 

darren-randolph Tommy Dickson / INPHO Darren Randolph. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph will also be back next year, following media reports last month stating he was set to retire from international football. 

“I spoke to Darren and he said he has no intention of retiring, and he said he’s disappointed that that story came out because it was completely untrue.” 

The Irish manager was speaking in the aftermath of the 2022 World Cup qualifier draw, which pits Ireland with Portugal, Serbia, Luxembourg, and Azerbaijan. 

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The fixtures will not be announced until tomorrow afternoon, with confirmation expected by 6pm. The fixtures are no longer negotiated between all the competing nations, and are instead computerised. Kenny said he had no preference as to the order of opponents.

“It’s an interesting draw”, reflected Kenny, “Portugal being European champions and Nations League holders, they have great pedigree. Serbia, on paper, are very strong and they haven’t qualified for the Euros.

“Luxembourg, checking their results, they are a vastly improved team, got 10 points in the Nations League and Azerbaijan are a bit of an unknown quantity, we will have to prepare accordingly. It’s interesting being a five team group rather than six.

“The concept of three games in a window is a new concept, initially with the Nations League and the playoff.

The players have traditionally been used to two games in a window, so there will possibly be friendlies on some of the dates but we won’t have three competitive games in a window which lessens the physical pressure on players, it’s a help.” 

The FAI also published their accounts for 2019 today, again showing a grim financial picture. They recorded a loss of €5.1 million, and declines in turnover, sponsorship, and state funding. 

Kenny, however, says the bleak finances do not bring added pressure to his efforts to lead Ireland to a first World Cup finals in 20 years. 

“I don’t feel any extra pressure. We want to perform well in the group, we are desperate to do well and so the pressure comes from within.

“We want to get to the World Cup, we’re not we’re not in it to make up the numbers. It’s a tough group but we’re not ruling anything out. The fact that previous accounts in previous years…that doesn’t become relevant in the dressing room.” 

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