Stephen Kenny continues parts of Mick McCarthy’s second term as Irish manager on Thursday night, but he is well aware that all the blame will fall on him if his Euro Championship dream in Ireland ends in Bratislava.
Ireland had to play Slovakia in this one-time draw last year as they failed to beat Denmark or Switzerland in any of the four attempts in the qualifying group. But if that goes wrong, Kenny will be in charge of his third match, something that supporters and the media will point out. As Steve Stanton once said unforgettably, he is now.
Former Dandalc boss got a taste of life when criticism mounted over Ireland’s defeat to Finland in Dublin at the Nations League last month.
Kenny accepts grief, but knows full well that it would be commendable if he could lead the national team to a November play-off decision against Bosnia or Northern Ireland.
“Look, this is it,” he says. “Last month’s matches against Bulgaria and Finland were pre – season matches for many of our players. Shane Duffy has not played since January, and Jeff Hendrick has not played a single game since March when he was out of Burnley when he was premier.
I switched the whole midfield for Finland because I didn’t want James McCarthy and Jeff to play two games in three days. I wanted to play Harry Arter and Robbie Brady somehow. Now our players are playing for their clubs for three weeks and they are getting better in fitness. We will be ready on Thursday. “
Physically, yes, but Kenny doesn’t have enough time to work with his charges on the training pitch, to include in them the game he owns that he likes.
In a season where clubs play catch-up without seeing the start of mid-August, the new manager understands why not only Premier League and Scottish League matches today, but also championship games involving his players. But it does not help.
“Look, tomorrow we can only do one recovery session, because a lot of the boys may have played. On Tuesday, we can not worry about that, because the game is only two days away. Get your bearings through a few things at the match stadium where you run on Wednesday.”
So Kenny will do a lot of work on video, giving the team what to expect from a group of Slovak players he has been learning since the day he replaced McCarthy.
“It’s hard, it’s been a while since Ireland won a note game abroad (with a goal from Austria and James McLean in 2014), and now we have to win it, another match next month.”
But Ireland did not have to win it in the 90th minute – extra time or a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out would have to be devised, and Kenny would have to figure out how to draw level.
“Subs work with the potential for extra time,” Kenny notes. “We’ve seen Shamrock Rovers and Dantalk win penalty shoot – outs at the end of the European action. I’m not thought much about the one – off game.
It will happen when Shane Duffy plays at Parkhead, one of the most emotional stadiums in the game, and we look forward to it soon. The midfielder and captain who did not play Siamus Coleman is now a big man for Ireland and the forehead is one of the main weapons in Ireland’s scoring arsenal.
Duffy Header from Ireland’s only goal set in the 180th minute. When he moved to Celtic, Derryman pointed out that the best quality international center forward would not play week after week.
“That’s an argument, and I agree with that,” the manager says. “But, on the other hand, if he went to a team at the bottom of the Premier League, he would build low blocks on his 18-yard line or erase the headlines, and we know he can do it all day. That’s it. Shane defends his box and wins the headlines.
“With Celtic, I’m going to ask him different questions now. He has to keep up with Celtic, who have a lot of places behind him in Europe and the domestic league.
“Plus Celtic has a lot in his hands and he’s got a lot of balls,” Kenny continues. “He’s a good passer on the ball. He’s really cheap as a passer, and to train for it, it’s helpful, I think.
“He only plays regular matches, he’s not played for a long time. He was a very important player in the Brighton Premier League under Chris Houghton. Shane is a great player for us.” Shane is a great player for us. “
Kenny has yet to give a clue as to what he will do with captain Coleman, who was sacked for Ireland last month, and is set to play well for Everton, who finished top of the Premier League this weekend.
The manager will not affect you as a strategist switching to a 3-5-2 formation to get Coleman and Matt Doherty on the pitch.
But Kenny ends up putting pressure on Slovakia without answering his Coleman / Doherty contingent.
“They, the supporters or supporters, have no idea that they are at home. They want to succeed, even though I have never thought about such things.
“In our view, I enjoyed the team of players who came last month. There was real humility between them. They are very decent people. They have ambition and love to play for their country. Everything is set to get a result next Thursday.”
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