Stephen Kenny revels in Luxembourg victory.
When the Republic of Ireland lost to Luxembourg back in March, it’s fair to say that Stephen Kenny was at a low ebb.
The defeat meant that Ireland had lost their opening two 2022 World Cup qualifiers and with a record of zero wins in 10 matches under the Dubliner, even his fiercest backers had started to wonder if Kenny really was the man to take the nation forward.
Stephen Kenny looked lost after March defeat to Luxembourg.
In the bowels of an empty Aviva Stadium following the 1-0 defeat, Kenny appeared shell-shocked and alone as he conducted his post-match media duties with Tony O’Donoghue of RTE.
Looking like he’d rather have been anywhere else than facing a live national television audience, the manager spoke about having to accept the criticism that would come the way of the team, stating that it “was unacceptable to lose at home like that.”
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) March 27, 2021
Determined Kenny hits back after Qatar draw.
Three days later, after an improved performance in a 1-1 draw with Qatar, Kenny cut a much more determined figure, giving an impassioned monologue in which he said: “You’ve everyone coming out of the woodwork now trying to kick us while we’re down.
“But I’ve great belief in the players that we have in this squad. I think we’re going to formulate a very, very good squad over the next couple of years and I’m certainly going to be a part of that. I’m going to manage that and I’m going to make sure we’re even better. That’s the way I genuinely feel.”
It could be said that Kenny has kept his end of the bargain because ever since that defeat to Luxembourg, his Ireland side have been on an upward curve.
His team have suffered just one defeat in their last 10 matches, with that being thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s late intervention in Faro, and it all culminated in a 3-0 win in Luxembourg last night which secured a third place group finish that seemed unlikely a few months ago.
Afterwards, Kenny spoke to O’Donoghue once more and this time the backdrop was a far cry from the suffocating silence he endured after that March defeat in Dublin.
Stephen Kenny remains humble in victory.
The ex-Dundalk manager had to raise his voice in order to be heard, as hordes of travelling supporters chanted his name.
He spoke about his delight at the victory and the belief in the squad and at no point did he seize the opportunity to bite back at his critics or take any credit for the turnaround in form.
“I’d rather they were singing about the players to be honest,” a humble Kenny said when asked about the Ireland fans serenading him.
“I’m a bit embarrassed. I’d rather they were singing ‘come on you boys in green’ or whatever. I understand and I appreciate it but at the end of the day it’s about players.”
Stephen Kenny talks to @Corktod
⚽'We lacked control in first half… but believed that we could score.'
⚽'I'd rather fans were singing about players'
⚽'We know we're not perfect'#LUXIRL #rtesoccer
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 14, 2021
While Ireland aren’t the finished article just yet, whether he likes to admit it or not, Kenny has overseen a remarkable change of fortunes since that dark night against Luxembourg eight months ago.
With no international matches until March, Ireland’s leader can probably rest in the knowledge that he will be taking the squad into the Euro 2024 campaign but before that, he can enjoy a well-earned rest over Christmas and the New Year.
In Kenny we trust? It seems that is the general consensus for now.