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No plans to axe Old Guard

New breed are on the way but Kenny also wants to get best out of current crop

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MEETING THE PRESS: Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during an interview with RTÉ close to his home in Co Louth. Photo: SPORTSFILE

MEETING THE PRESS: Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during an interview with RTÉ close to his home in Co Louth. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

MEETING THE PRESS: Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during an interview with RTÉ close to his home in Co Louth. Photo: SPORTSFILE

It was more a statement of fact than a cheap shot, but Stephen Kenny still made a point, a strong one, about the team he inherited from Mick McCarthy.

"You have to respect the players who played in the campaign, but we only won one of the six games in the group, if you take the Gibraltar games out," Kenny said yesterday.

'Respect' can be a very loaded word and there are players in the Ireland squad who could fear that a mixture of a poor qualifying campaign and the arrival of a new manager who has worked with the most exciting batch of young Irish in a generation (maybe even the most exciting ever) could signal the end of their international careers.

Did Kenny see a role for Glenn Whelan (36) or Shane Long (33)? Would he take the gamble of dropping Seamus Coleman for Matt Doherty? Would he decide that persisting with goal-shy strikers like Callum Robinson and Scott Hogan (a paltry one goal in 20 caps between them) was illogical when bright young forwards like Troy Parrott, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly were on the way up, scoring freely for his U21 side?

Kenny hasn't said much to the current squad to date, revealing that his only conversation has been with Seamus Coleman in his role as captain.

"I rang Seamus, as captain, just to reassure him that he will indeed be the captain of Ireland under my tenure as well. He will continue to be captain of Ireland," Kenny said.

But he's talked about them. In his engagements with the media in the last 24 hours he has made it clear that he plans to take a magnifying glass, and not a spiteful scythe, to the panel he inherited from McCarthy.

He confirmed that Coleman would remain as captain, talked up players who have only belatedly become proper internationals (Matt Doherty, John Egan), spoke about another established player who had been treading water as if Kenny saw him (Robbie Brady) as a project, and also gave hope to David McGoldrick, one of the real finds of the brief McCarthy era.

"We will need everyone, we can't discard anyone," Kenny said.

"We need that competition for places and the squad could change at various moments but we do need everyone to come to the fore.

"If we play nine games in autumn, we're going to get injuries. If there is an aspiration to play 16 or 17 games, we can't discard anyone."

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LEADER: Seamus Coleman (l) will still be captain under Stephen Kenny while the new manager praised Matt Doherty (r). Photo: SPORTSFILE

LEADER: Seamus Coleman (l) will still be captain under Stephen Kenny while the new manager praised Matt Doherty (r). Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

LEADER: Seamus Coleman (l) will still be captain under Stephen Kenny while the new manager praised Matt Doherty (r). Photo: SPORTSFILE

Managers make changes. The handover of football power here is rarely smooth or voluntary, and a coach is usually appointed as Ireland manager because the previous guy hadn't done a good enough job.

Jack Charlton felt that old stalwarts like Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton and Tony Galvin had to make way. McCarthy's first period in charge saw the departure of some World Cup legends, his old team-mate John Aldridge for one.

Brian Kerr picked Gary Doherty every time he could and then subsequent managers ignored Doherty completely, and while Cyrus Christie was 'Head Boy' under Martin O'Neill, he couldn't even make a squad under McCarthy.

Kenny will, of course, make changes, but his comments indicate a man who sees a current squad which needs to be improved, not replaced whosesale.

Speaking to the media by conference call from his Co Louth home, Kenny said "I didn't want to come on here singling out players". And then singled out a player, McGoldrick, who was first capped in 2014 by Martin O'Neill, but only looked like a proper international player in 2019 under McCarthy.

"David McGoldrick has been quite selfless in his performances because he's been quite isolated," Kenny said.

"Technically, he's very, very good and that's one of the things Mick McCarthy did really, really well. David hadn't really featured until Mick came in but I must say he really rejuvenated David McGoldrick .

"He has good football intellect - he sees things early and has good movement. So he's been very important to Ireland in the campaign."

The key to his success at Dundalk was how Kenny made players access talent they didn't know they had, players like Chris Shields and Brian Gartland transformed from journeymen to title winners by Kenny.

Robbie Brady is not an unknown, but he's fallen a long way from the hero of Lille who was valued at £12m. And you sense a frustration from Kenny that Brady is well below the heights he reached in 2016.

"I think we have a lot of talented players," he said.

"It's difficult to know why, for example, someone like Robbie Brady, three years ago was probably our most creative player, and now, at times, hasn't got into the 22. How has that happened?

"My job is to try and unlock the potential of the whole team and try and find a way of doing that.

"We have a short window. What I do think is setting the team up to see players, particularly creative players, build their potential. I think I can unlock ... get players to fulfil their talent. And to utilise their talent."

If Matt Doherty and John Egan had feared for their places under Kenny, he poured honey into their ears, stating they deserved more than the small number of caps they have and adding that Egan should have been an established player three years ago.

He lists the most recent Irish back four (Doherty, Egan, Duffy and Stevens) as being "in the top 10 of back fours in Europe, and I don't throw that out lightly".

Headaches? "I'm hoping I've serious headaches and real dilemmas.

"I've no problem making decisions," he says.