Republic of Ireland will improve, insists Stephen Kenny after dismal start to World Cup qualifying campaign

Back-to-back defeats by Serbia and Luxembourg have caused major concern around the Irish side

Damian Spellman
Monday 29 March 2021 14:33
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Republic of Ireland coach Stephen Kenny
Republic of Ireland coach Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny is adamant he can do “a very good job” as Republic of Ireland coach despite his team’s catastrophic start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Kenny’s 10-match spell fell to new depths on Saturday evening when Ireland slipped to a 1-0 qualifier loss at home to Luxembourg on an evening when a first win under the former under-21s manager was the only option.

He later insisted he was not concerned about his position despite mounting criticism and when asked why, he replied: “It’s not something I’m focusing on. From my point of view, I can’t affect that. It’s not something I’m focusing on at all.

“We all have setbacks at various times and I have absolute conviction that I’m capable of doing a very good job here, but on this evidence that doesn’t back it up, I do realise that.

“We have to do a hell of a lot better than that.”

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Kenny’s planned elevation to the senior job as Mick McCarthy stepped aside did not meet with universal approval, and the hugely successful League of Ireland boss is facing an uphill battle to win over his detractors.

The Republic will not be at this summer’s rescheduled Euro 2020 finals after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat in Slovakia, and their chances of making it to the next year’s World Cup finals have been drastically reduced after back-to-back defeats by Serbia and Luxembourg.

Nevertheless, Kenny remains defiant as he turns his attention to Tuesday night’s friendly against hosts Qatar in Debrecen.

He said: “I don’t think it’s up to me to convince people, what we’ve got to do is get better results and better performances. We’ve got another game now on Tuesday and we’ve just got to go again.

“Over the campaign, we’ve got to do a lot better than we did tonight. The performance against Serbia was excellent but ultimately, we didn’t win. Tonight is a real setback for us, I’m not denying that, there’s no getting away from that.

“I have to accept the criticism, to be honest with you, that comes my way and fight harder to do better. That will be my intention.”

Ireland sit at the foot of Group A after two rounds of fixtures and with a trip to reigning European champions Portugal next up in September, when they also face Azerbaijan and Serbia at home, things could get worse before they get better.

Asked if he believes qualification remains a possibility, Kenny replied: “Well, it’s only two games out of eight and there’s a lot of football to be played.

“We’ve given ourselves a lot to do, there’s no doubt about that. We’re unlikely, of course, to win the group, but we still have to try to work hard to try to put ourselves in contention.

“The three games in September will be very important. There will be nine points to play for, so we’ve just got to try the maximum in that window.”

PA

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