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'After Belgium people thought we were absolutely brilliant, then we lose a game and it's a catastrophe'

Stephen Kenny reflects on the extremes of reaction that come with his job.

Stephen Kenny waves to the crowd after the victory against Scotland.
Stephen Kenny waves to the crowd after the victory against Scotland.
Image: Tom Maher/INPHO

STEPHEN KENNY UNDERSTANDS the see-sawing extremes of the discourse around his job. 

“I have always been excited about this team. I was excited last week about this team not because we won 3-0 today or because we lost 1-0. After Belgium here, 2-2, people thought we were absolutely brilliant, then we win 1-0 the next game and then lose a game and then it’s a catastrophe. That is part of the business and I understand that but I am very clear in what we’re doing and what we want to do.” 

A strong finish to 2021 earned Kenny a contract extension but it took two limp Nations League defeats to Armenia and Ukraine for the pressure to dial up once again, with one newspaper reporting Kenny was “dangerously close to his endgame” head of Saturday’s meeting with Scotland. What followed was a 3-0 win, a victory Kenny called the most significant home victory in seven years. The rankings bear that out, as it was the first time Ireland beat a side ranked ahead of them in a competitive game at the Aviva since Bosnia in the play-offs for Euro 2016. 

Kenny has been no stranger to defiant boosterism in some of his post-game press dealings, but he was reserved after the Scotland game, stressing the fact that Ireland conceded more clear-cut chances than they did in either of the games they lost. 

He was invited to take a couple of victory laps but declined the offer. 

“I am not viewing it like that. I know what I am doing, very clear on what I am doing. It has been a really radical shift in the number of players we have brought through. Clearly the public really identify with it, it’s really exciting and the public identify with the style of play. We lost a couple of games and we had setbacks this week, we are not happy with ourselves particularly with the defeat in Armenia.” 

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Kenny responded to a later question asking whether he answered his critics by saying, “I am not here to make any statements of justification.” 

Focus now switches to the final game of the window against Ukraine in Łódź, Poland. Injuries and unavailabilities are a mounting problem: Shane Duffy is suspended for the game, with John Egan a doubt having played through a significant pain barrier against Scotland. Kenny indicated Darragh Lenihan may come into the starting line-up as a replacement. Michael Obafemi is also a doubt with the groin problem that saw him substituted shortly after his stunning goal. 

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Gavin Cooney

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