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Ireland players fully behind 'great manager who has just been unlucky', says O'Shea

‘We all really like the way he plays and the way he is with us,’ said the West Brom defender of Stephen Kenny.

Dara O'Shea (R) has defended Stephen Kenny's position as Republic of Ireland manager.
Dara O'Shea (R) has defended Stephen Kenny's position as Republic of Ireland manager.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

DARA O’SHEA HAS backed Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny to turn his and his side’s fortunes around following a disappointing three-game international window.

Ireland suffered back-to-back defeats away to Serbia and, less palatably, at home to Luxembourg to open their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in the worst possible way, before drawing 1-1 with World Cup hosts Qatar in a friendly on Tuesday night.

Following that most recent fixture in Hungary, Kenny came out swinging in both his post-match interview with RTÉ and in his post-match press conference, defending his credentials and vowing to steer Ireland onto the right track under his tutelage, which has come under plenty of scrutiny following an 11-game winless start to his reign in charge.

And O’Shea, who played for Kenny during their respective stints with the Ireland U21s, has echoed his fellow Dubliner’s sentiments, expressing his belief that Kenny is a “great manager” who has “just been unlucky”, and one who retains the universal support of his current playing squad.

The 22-year-old said: “Stephen has been great. I’ve no bad words to say about him. He came in and took the ’21s job when I was there and, us as players in the ’21s group, we really bought into it.

“It was amazing for us to have the manager who was going to step up to the first team implementing his ways to build us as players stepping into that first-team environment. He’s taken to the job really well here as well, he’s been the exact same.

“Obviously it’s been tough, he hasn’t had it easy with injuries and through Covid and different things like that. There have been lots of barriers in the way.

As a group, everyone is behind him and everyone backs him. We all really like the way he plays and the way he is with us. He’s a great manager and a great tactician. I think he’s just been unlucky and he has the full backing of everyone.

Ireland will need to pull off a shock or two of their own if they are to claw back the existing deficit between them and joint group leaders Portugal and Serbia, with even a trip to Luxembourg later in the campaign now looking even more complicated than it once might have on paper.

But O’Shea is refusing to concede qualification altogether, preferring instead to view Luxembourg’s upset of Ireland as evidence that his own side can still have a say in Group A.

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“I don’t think anyone can write us off as such. Obviously, we haven’t got off to the start we wanted – that’s it now, that’s behind us. We’ve got to look forward, we can’t dwell on it.

“Obviously, the other night was tough for each and every one of us to take, but I don’t think you can write us off.

“There are a lot of games still to be played and even in Portugal v Serbia, maybe teams would have been writing Serbia off and they came away with a draw there.

“In international football, anything can happen, as you saw the other night, and there’s definitely still a possibility.”

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