'He got his team selection wrong and I worry that he got it wrong for the wrong reasons'

The Republic of Ireland’s draw with Azerbaijan was dissected on the latest episode of The Football Family.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny pictured during today's training session at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland manager Stephen Kenny pictured during today's training session at the Aviva Stadium.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

SATURDAY WAS ANOTHER difficult day in the tenure of Stephen Kenny as Republic of Ireland senior manager.

The Boys in Green collected the first point of their World Cup qualifying campaign, but a 1-1 draw at home to Azerbaijan couldn’t be classed as progress on the back of an encouraging display in the 2-1 loss in Portugal.

Considerable criticism is again being levelled at Kenny as he prepares his team for the sizeable challenge that will be presented by Serbia at the Aviva Stadium.

When speaking to the press this afternoon, the Ireland boss insisted that although Qatar 2022 is already almost out of reach, his priority is reaching the 2024 European Championships.

While expressing the belief that Kenny shouldn’t have to be concerned about losing his job in the short term, Gavin Cooney questioned his choice of personnel against Azerbaijan on the latest episode of The Football Family podcast.

“Having heard him mention that we’re building a team for the Euros in 2024, I think I’ve done every single press conference he’s had as Ireland manager and it’s the first time he has explicitly said that,” said Gavin.

“He has always said that ‘we’re building a team’ and he did follow up by saying ‘it’s not a case that we haven’t been trying to win the games’, but for me that puts a slightly different spin on the last couple of months. 

“I do wonder if he’s making too much of a virtue of youth, in the fact that he got his team selection wrong against Azerbaijan. [Aaron] Connolly is 21, [Adam] Idah is 20, Troy [Parrott] is 19, [Jayson] Molumby is 22. I definitely think Molumby wasn’t ready to start that game. I don’t think Connolly should have started that game, having come off in the game in Portugal.

“Even by his own public comments and metrics – and this is what’s quite exasperating about Kenny – Connolly shouldn’t have started because he hasn’t been playing at club level and he said the lesson we learned from Luxembourg, post-Serbia, was the fact that guys who aren’t in a rhythm of playing at club level every three or four days, they can’t rise again and go for a second intense international game in four days.

“Yet he stuck with Connolly and he stuck with Idah. Idah, okay, I thought was alright but Parrott really struggled to affect the game. He got his team selection wrong there and I just worry that he got it wrong for the wrong reasons as well, where he thought it’s more important to say that we’re building for the future here.”

Tomorrow night in Dublin, Ireland will aim to respond positively when they face a Serbia side against whom they began the campaign with a 3-2 defeat in March.

Gavin added: “I think [Stephen Kenny] definitely has to see out at least this campaign. As it turns out, his contract is until next July so that takes in the friendlies in March and the Uefa Nations League games from June onwards. 

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“I think you have to give him the benefit of the rest of the campaign, even though it’s a dead campaign. It’ll be mathematically put out of its misery if they don’t beat Serbia on Tuesday night, but it’s dead, and it has been dead since we lost to Luxembourg in the second game back in March.” 

- Originally published at 6:48pm

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