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Kenny should get his chance but he might have to stay patient

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Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny celebrates with the trophy and fans after Dundalk’s crowning as League of Ireland champions in October

Stephen Kenny celebrates with the trophy and fans after Dundalk’s crowning as League of Ireland champions in October

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Stephen Kenny

Brian Kerr is an avid reader so we can only imagine that the walls of his house are lined with books.

Maybe not, however, with the autobiographies of Jason McAteer and Shay Given, two footballers who played for the national team under Kerr but who were pretty scathing of him in his time as senior manager.

The suspicion over Kerr from senior players in the Irish squad due to his lack of experience at the top level and his approach harmed Kerr greatly.

"I know he's been successful at under-age level with Ireland but that doesn't mean he can work with senior professionals who have been to World Cup finals," McAteer later wrote. "He should never have got the job."

Given said: "When it came to Brian's managerial style, I felt it was a wee bit naive and basic for the highest level."

Fifteen years on, would the same thoughts, the same barriers, arise if Stephen Kenny were to look for, and get, the Ireland manager's job?

It was significant that yesterday, the day that Martin O'Neill left his post as Ireland boss, was the sixth anniversary of Kenny's unveiling as Dundalk manager. He was taking over a team who were rock bottom, devoid of confidence, lacking a spark and had no way forward, bar that of the club's then-owners who felt that Kenny, defeated in his previous manager's job at Shamrock Rovers, could lift things.

Kenny, of course, took Dundalk to unprecedented heights: league titles, doubles and that break through in Europe, an added bonus the progress of former players such as Daryl Horgan on the international stage.

Could Kenny manage Ireland? The bookies certainly think so, as for most of the day yesterday, once news broke of O'Neill's exit, the Tallaght man hovered near the top of the betting.

Questions

By close of business, Mick McCarthy remained the favourite at evens but Kenny was in second place, not out of sight, at 6/4.

The same questions will come Kenny's way as were placed in front of Kerr in 2003: are you big enough to do this job?

A lot has changed in 15 years, and the Irish squad is no longer packed with the World Cup veterans that McAteer spoke of. Kerr had a team of Premier League regulars to make up his squad; the current Ireland panel has a player from the third tier and others who can't get a game in the Championship for their clubs.

Last month, Richard Dunne used his Herald column to make a case for Kenny. He suggested that current Ireland players were not, in all honesty, in a position to question Kenny's background as their own careers, mainly medal-free and based in the Championship, were nothing to shout about.

Dunne also felt that Kenny's achievements with Dundalk in Europe would make more of an impression (and already be known about) than Kerr's feat of winning titles with St Pat's. Kenny would not be seen as a League of Ireland manager but as the Republic of Ireland manager who previously managed in Ireland.

Kevin Kilbane feels that Kenny can be an option, but with a caveat. "I think Stephen Kenny would be a good appointment but the one thing he has to do is prove himself to the players," Kilbane said on Newstalk yesterday as news of O'Neill's exit spread.

"You hear about getting League of Ireland players involved but the step-up from the League of Ireland to international football is too great.

"We have seen it from lads who went over to play in England. The best players in the League of Ireland have gone over to play in England and not necessarily been a success.

"I am not saying they won't be a success or won't play international football, but the step-up from the League to international football is too big. If Stephen went in there he'd have to prove himself to the players.

"He is on an even keel, coaching-wise, with Michael O'Neill and what he's done with Northern Ireland, Michael has proved himself, he started to get performances out of the players after a difficult start. If Stephen Kenny went in, he'd have to make an impression on the players straight away."

Many of the current squad already know of Kenny from their time in the League of Ireland.

Kenny shares an agent with other players and the feedback there, you'd presume, would be positive.

In a squad which has so few Premier League players, or players who have played in the Champions League, or even won a trophy, who is big enough to say he doesn't rate Kenny? If it comes to a 'show us your medals' competition, only one winner there.

Will Kenny get the gig? Probably not.

Euro 2020 is being co-hosted by Dublin and it's unthinkable for Ireland not to qualify, and many in the FAI would see appointing Kenny now as a risk to that big event in 2020.

Should he get the gig? He should be in the mix and get an interview at least. Kenny's passion for the game, his knowledge of players, and his ability to win while playing well should carry weight.

The job may come for Kenny too soon but he should get the chance to manage his country one day.


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