With COVID-19 halting sporting events worldwide, Euro 2020 will now become Euro 2021. But with a change in the managerial guard, and playoff games remaining, how well will the new-look Ireland set-up adapt?
In November 2018 Mick McCarthy agreed to take the Republic of Ireland hot-seat for a second time in his career but in the strangest of circumstances.
While being announced as the new manager on the 25th November, his successor Stephen Kenny was also announced the same day. Confusing to say the least.
McCarthy, who previously managed the side between 1996 and 2002, agreed to take the job until 2020 to then be replaced by Stephen Kenny. The former Dundalk manager, who on the same day, was revealed as the new Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager, was scheduled to replace McCarthy after the Euro 2020 campaign.
However, with COVID-19 postponing the European Championships for one year, the FAI have now replaced McCarthy with Kenny, despite being in the middle of the Playoff stage of the Qualification campaign.
Former Shelbourne Midfielder Alan Cawley spoke about his views on the dilemma between the two managers and the current state of the FAI.
Cawley began his career at Leeds United after moving from Ireland as a young teenager to follow his dream. He also spent time at Sheffield Wednesday before returning home to sign for University College Dublin.
The Sligo-native moved on to Shelbourne in 2004 where he won the League of Ireland Premier Division.
After a career in Irish football, Alan is now a football pundit for RTÉ on the League of Ireland highlight show ‘Soccer Republic’ while also covering live games.
Alan said that results and performances simply weren’t good enough but has sympathy with McCarthy for the situation he was in.
“I’ve said this numerous times, results and performances weren’t good enough to be honest”
“But to be fair to Mick this was a tricky situation, and I don’t think he was ever brought in to play this attractive brand of expansive football we’ve been calling for.”
Despite the lack of experience at a higher level, the RTE pundit is certain that Stephen Kenny will do no worse than his predecessors.
“If you look at who we have had with Trapattoni, Martin O’Neill and Mick McCarthy, Stephen Kenny will do no worse than any of them, mark my words”
“I know we qualified for a couple of tournaments under them, but if anyone is trying to tell me that for the past 10 years or so we have been playing great football or that we’ve been getting the best out of the players that we’ve got, I’m not buying that.”
Cawley, a long-term supporter of Kenny, said that he has no doubts about the former Dundalk boss’ ability to lead Ireland to Euro qualification and into a new way of playing.
“I have no doubts whatsoever in his ability”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we are suddenly going to start playing like Brazil, but you will definitely see a change of mentality about how we approach the opposition”
“If you look at his performances in Europe with Dundalk, most Irish teams go to Europe with 10-men behind the ball, Stephen was going to teams like Zenit St. Petersburg and taking the game to them”
Robbie Keane also finds himself caught-up in the latest mess created by the old FAI management. The record goalscorer joined Mick McCarthy’s backroom staff in 2018 in a deal worth a reported €200,000 per year. After being left out of Stephen Kenny’s new-look set-up, Keane has two years left on his contract.
Cawley went on to say the mess isn’t of Stephen’s doing and that it is only right he is allowed to build his own team around him.
“Stephen is building a really good team around him, people he can trust with the likes of Keith Andrews, Damien Duff and Ruaidhrí Higgins and if he didn’t see Robbie fitting into that, that’s his prerogative”
“But you want it sorted out as soon as possible because the last thing you would want is this situation lingering around when we get back to playing games and all focus should be on the playoffs”
“It’s Stephen’s time now and I wish him all the very best with it”