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Stephen Kenny distances himself from Director title at revamped FAI

Kenny also confirmed James McCarthy is available for international selection, although the prospect of a return for Stephen Ireland looks unlikely.

Stephen Kenny speaks to the media at FAI HQ in Abbottstown.
Stephen Kenny speaks to the media at FAI HQ in Abbottstown.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Jul 8th 2020, 3:35 PM

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND manager Stephen Kenny says he is not assuming the title of International Football Director under a new FAI restructure. 

Plans to trim down the FAI executive team appeared in the media last month, with Kenny envisaged to join the executive in the newly-created role of International Football Director. But at a socially-distant press conference today, Kenny said he is not taking that title, although will play a role at executive level. 

“To be honest my job hasn’t changed at all. I don’t have the title of Director. I’m the manager of the international team, that’s all I ever wanted to be. That’s a huge privilege and honour to do that.”

Kenny’s involvement at executive level will be more informal. He said he will be able to attend some meetings if he wants to, and then spoke in general terms of the importance of putting a renewed emphasis on football when decisions are made at the Association. 

“Since I’ve come into the organisation as U21 manager I’ve been a strong voice, and I think that’s recognised.

“Football needs to be at the centre of the decision-making process, particularly with the international teams at all levels. I articulate my views, and we have a great Technical Director in Ruud Dokter, and he’s doing a very good job behind the scenes along with all of the underage international managers.

“My job is international team manager with eight games ahead in the Autumn, which is a big challenge. If I can contribute and give my experience and my views, not with the board of directors but with the senior management at the FAI, I’ll do that. I do that anyway. I think this just gives me a seat at the table if I require it. I don’t intend on attending all of the meetings, that’s not what I’m there for.

“It’s important, because of austerity at the FAI over the last number of years, some of the international teams at underage level may not have been resourced in the ways they might have wanted.

“That has a knock-on effect, as it affects how they do in qualifying for tournaments and how players come through.

“We haven’t seen players come through. We have Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady at 28 who have come through, and nobody for nine years until Aaron Connolly came through, aside from the two Cork City players, Alan Browne and Sean Maguire.”  

Kenny has set up an office at FAI HQ at Abbottstown, where he and his management team of Keith Andrew and Damien Duff have continued to review footage of past games and scout players ahead of a hectic Autumn. 

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Kenny’s first games in charge will be a Uefa Nations League double-header against Bulgaria and Finland in September, with the Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia fixed for 8 October ahead of another couple of Nations League games. Should Ireland win that clash away to Slovakia, the final of the play-off will be staged on 12 November, away to either Bosnia or Northern Ireland.

“We have to try and qualify for the European Championships, so we can’t be too experimental in that phase”, said Kenny. “It’s a unique opportunity to qualify for the Euros in Dublin, we can’t waste it. And it’s a really tough challenge, we’ve got to go away to Slovakia and away to Bosnia or Northern Ireland, win two back-to-back matches. That hasn’t been done in many, many years, to beat significant nations back-to-back away.”

Kenny says he has a clear idea as to how his side will play – likely to be a back four with one striker, with the positions in between more malleable. Kenny says competition for midfield places is strong, namechecking Harry Arter, U21 captain Jayson Molumby and James McCarthy, who is again available for selection. 

james-mccarthy James McCarthy on his most recent international appearance, against Moldova in 2016. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Crystal Palace midfielder McCarthy has not played for Ireland since 2016, and he has since suffered and recovered from a horror leg-break. 

“I think James was injured for two years nearly”, said Kenny when asked about the midfielder’s long absence. “It was tough coming back. I don’t know all the details, I think he was focusing on getting back playing because it is career-threatening when you’re out that long with injuries. He’s had a great season with Crystal Palace overall and played a lot of matches, he’s well up in the 20s now in terms of league matches. That’s been a great start for him.” 

Kenny welcomed today’s news that Rotherham attacker Chiedozie Ogbene has started the eligibility process to declare for Ireland, though admitted Birmingham midfielder Dan Crowley may not be eligible to switch allegiance. 

The FAI began exploring Crowley’s eligibility last year, but it appears he may be ineligible as he did not have an Irish passport when he played an underage game for England, which is the same loophole as prevented Ryan Johansson declaring for Ireland last year. 

Finally, Kenny said he has not spoken to Stephen Ireland, who used an interview with the Athletic last month to state his ambition to return to club football and force his way back into the Irish picture. 

“I haven’t spoken to him. Stephen is obviously a terrifically talented player, and we want all the players playing in first teams. We’ll see how that goes.” 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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