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Former Ireland defender unsure if Stephen Kenny is right man to take national team forward

Stephen Kenny

Former Republic of Ireland international Phil Babb has called for an “inquisition” after Saturday night’s unexpected defeat to Luxembourg.

Stephen Kenny is still looking for his first win as Ireland manager and while many are calling for cool heads, pressure is beginning to mount on the 49-year-old.

A late Gerson Rodrigues goal condemned Ireland to their second consecutive defeat of their World Cup qualifying campaign and the boys in green will need a remarkable turnaround if they are to be in with a chance of making it to Qatar in 2022.

Stephen Kenny

Babb, who played for Ireland between 1994 and 2002, slammed the performance against Luxembourg and revealed the manner in which Kenny was appointed national team manager last year never sat well with him.

“I’m in shock, to be honest,” Babb said on Sky Sports. “I thought they had all the tools in the box to get a win, and to be unstuck by the 98th-ranked team in the world is an embarrassment.

“They seemed to be devoid of ideas from the start of the game. It’s a very sad day.

“It feels raw but the more you look at it, it’s not unexpected.

“The team has been struggling. Yes, we’re trying to create a new style of play for Irish football, and there’s glimpses of it when it’s nice and they’re playing through the thirds.

“But when they get into that final third, there’s no creative spark whatsoever and that worries me. We couldn’t repeat the good patterns of play. We had one or two attempts and the rest were half chances, which just isn’t good enough against that type of opposition.

“There has to be an inquisition, to be honest. I was never happy with the way Stephen Kenny’s appointment was announced. Mick McCarthy had a European Championship qualifying campaign to go through and yet his successor was already known for in two years’ time. That didn’t sit well with me. There’s been this outcry to be fashionable and for the side to play free-flowing football, but you need the players who are confident to do that.


“We’ve seen Ireland try it, and it’s just not working. We don’t have the players to drop deep, on the turn, to try the killer passes. The confidence is just ebbing away from them. The players seemed anxious.

“I would say to a certain point yes [you write off Qatar 2022]. It’s going to be extremely difficult now to qualify. I think now you’ve got to look as far ahead as 2024.”

After Saturday night’s defeat, Kenny insisted that his job was not in jeopardy but he will know that the scrutiny will continue to intensify unless he begins delivering results.

Babb admitted doubts about Kenny’s suitability for the position after 10 games without a win.

“That’s a very difficult question,” Babb responded when asked if Kenny was the right man to take Ireland forward.

“The only saving grace I feel for Stephen Kenny is it’s six months until the next game.


“I’m not so sure if he is, and I’m not trying to get anyone the sack or anything like that. But I’m just trying to look for the positives.

“A lot of journalists in Ireland are saying ‘these are growing pains, we have to just feel the pain for a certain period and then we’ll grow out of them’. I’m not so sure.

“He’s tried to change the formation, but he’s still not getting the best out of players that are used to that formation. Yes, he’s had injuries, there are some key players missing. Mostly defenders.

“But the defensive problems aren’t the big problem, for me. It’s creating chances.”

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