Top job in Irish football just too good to turn down
Stephen Kenny revealed it was a 'real wrench' to leave Dundalk FC after six years of success at the club.
Speaking at his unveiling as the new Republic of Ireland U-21 manager at the Aviva Stadium on Monday, Kenny - who will succeed Mick McCarthy as senior team manager in August 2020 - revealed the difficult nature of his decision.
'Of course there is,' he said when asked had he mixed emotions about leaving Dundalk. 'It was a real wrench to leave Dundalk Football Club because we had unprecedented success there and the staff and players were a amazing to work with. They were a real special group of players and there was a tremendous bond between the football club and the whole town really.
'It has been a big part of my life for the last six years and there's tremendous relationships there at all levels but the international team is a huge honour and something that you just cannot turn down.
'It was a unique period in Irish football history and it was a real privilege to be part of that. I was reluctant to leave that to go anywhere, particularly with the seedings this year in the Champions League. We were never seeded but the co-efficient being seeded meant we'd be seeded in the first round of the Champions League and possibly the third round of the Europa League depending on how it goes.
'So to leave that it would have to be something special and this is something special. It doesn't get any more special than this. This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity and one that you just can't turn down.' Kenny also backed the club to go from strength to strength in his absence. 'I'm very confident that Dundalk is in a really strong place,' he said.
'All of the players from last season are virtually all signed up for next season. It's the first season in many seasons where I haven't lost any players There's a great leadership group there, Vinny Perth, the assistant manager is tremendous, Ruaidhrí Higgins the coach, Stephen O'Donnell the captain and Brian Gartland as well so they will have continued success there I feel.
'On Saturday everything was decided really. I would have liked to communicate it better with the Dundalk players but logistically it just wasn't possible. People are on their break, it's not like they're all in the town. 'I was only signed and it was out there. That's the modern era now.' He also said he was hugely proud of what he had achieved at the club but said he'd let others decide what was his best moment.
'I don't really want to be speaking about my own achievements but it was just a great period, winning four league titles and the Europa League group stage qualification and the subsequent performances in that were a highlight as were how the players performed at that level.' Kenny, who said he would not be taking any of his Dundalk staff with him to his new role, denied speculation that John Giles was involved in his appointment and said he was happy with the arrangement which will see him succeed Mick McCarthy in August 2020 - adding that he had that in writing.
'Everything was finalised on Saturday really. A week ago I couldn't have envisaged this but it's an arrangement that I'm perfectly happy with. It's a great opportunity and I'll work extremely hard to do it justice.' Asked would he have left Oriel Park without the carrot of the senior job, Kenny said: 'That's a hypothetical situation. The situation I'm in now is a great situation. It's a huge honour. To be involved in managing the U-21 team and thereafter what's involved is an absolutely huge honour.'