Tuesday 20 August 2019

Stephen Kenny upbeat in spite of FAI crisis and calls for State funding

Grand designs: Stephen Kenny's side will only have one of 13 World Cup slots to aim for when the campaign begins after next autumn's Nations League. Photo: Sportsfile
Grand designs: Stephen Kenny's side will only have one of 13 World Cup slots to aim for when the campaign begins after next autumn's Nations League. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Stephen Kenny has acknowledged that off-the-field strife has delivered challenging times for Irish football.

But the U-21 boss - and future senior manager - is encouraged by promising on-pitch developments.

And he believes it is incumbent on Government to up their commitment to the sport by building facilities to accelerate growth.

State funding is currently suspended due to a turbulent period for the game here, and Kenny was reluctant to be drawn into debate on that thorny subject as he visited Duleek AFC in Meath as part of the FAI's Festival of Football.

But he still articulated on the need for State funding, especially with regard to infrastructure, while also citing the U-19 team's progression to the UEFA European Championship semi-finals and his own team's Toulon exploits as evidence of football advancement.

"You have to retain focus," said Kenny, asked if the boardroom upheaval was a distraction. "You couldn't let your spirits diminish or erode.

"A lot of good things are happening on the football side. I've tried to focus on what I'm doing in my work. I've actually been away for five of the past seven weeks (in Toulon, the U-21 Euros and the early rounds of the U-19 competition).

"It's been a great learning curve for me so I haven't been able to focus too much on what's been happening although I have tried to get daily reports. It's obviously challenging times for everyone in Irish football and there is no hiding from that."

Kenny was at home for one day of the League of Ireland workshop and was impressed by presentations from Niall Quinn and all-island league backer Kieran Lucid.

He said both plans had positive aspects, while stressing his opinion that the priority should be the raising of standards with a view to competing in Europe.

He articulated his long held belief that the Government hasn't done enough for football or, more specifically, the League of Ireland - and the travelling in his new gig has emphasised that.

"Our second-best stadium is probably Tallaght at the moment, after the Aviva," he said.

"There are probably 90 stadia in England better than that, you know? That's a big, big issue.

"They were very impressive presentations (at workshop) and I think that it's good that people want to become involved in our league.

"You can get tied up in parochial disputes but you have to look beyond that and try and see some real vision and strategy for what you could be."

It's the potential of players such as Troy Parrott that are more likely to be relevant to Kenny in the short-term at least.

Parrott's growing Spurs reputation and Adam Idah's move through the ranks at Norwich are two reasons to be cheerful.

Indeed, Kenny knows there's a danger that the 'level headed' Parrott may bypass U-21 level, and lavished praise on the teen while warning that injuries have posed him problems this term.

"He's instinctive. He is not always conventional but has a creative mind and sees those things that others don't' see. We'll see how he goes."

Irish Independent

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