Defining week for Stephen Kenny and Ireland begins

Defining week for Stephen Kenny and Ireland begins

Ireland travel to Greece in good shape.

The Ireland project under Stephen Kenny has come a long way.

There is a line starting to be drawn under the last two or three years of transition, possibility and excitement.

Some of Kenny’s original Ireland under-21 team are now 23 and 24 years of age, and other younger members have grown into seasoned pros ahead of schedule.

Jason Knight is one player who is already very much a part of the Irish furniture at the age of 22.

He has 18 caps under his belt already and the likes of Troy Parrott, Adam Idah and Gavin Bazunu look similarly adjusted to the international stage.

That couldn’t have been said about their early days in the Ireland jersey. Take the 2020 Nations League as one example – they looked raw and panicked as they learned on the job.

Ireland sharpened ahead of Greece clash.

There was short-term pain but now Kenny has a large squad of players to pick from, all of whom have lots of senior international football under their belts.

Against France in March we saw a team of men. Young players looking old and wily in their dogmatic discipline to execute a near-perfect gameplan.

Ireland looked like they meant serious business that night. The performance not just enjoyable because of style of football or the optimism that comes with the squad’s age profile, but because of their aggressive focus and efficiency.

It could be argued that that competitive edge was missing before, but this was always a long-term project.

It takes more than three days of training or a rousing pre-match speech to go toe-to-toe with France.

What was seen was the product of years’ work, and the extended training period before this Greece match should allow the coaching team to sculpt the side some more.

It feels like ‘Ireland’ are ready to fight again.

Ireland development.

The Kenny debates will hopefully subside with this development. Maybe this time – in this window – we are no longer the Kenny XI Project but a sharpened international team.

Maybe Dr Kenny’s surgery is complete and we have a team we can call ‘Ireland’ moulded, matured and ready to take on Greece in a European Championship qualifier as important as any played under Jack, Mick, Trap or Martin.

In a group where France and Netherlands are hot favourites to take the top two spots, a win against Greece is likely needed to give Ireland any hope of separating the European heavyweights.


Greece already have a play-off in the bag through the Nations League, but Kenny sees the threat that comes with the host’s ‘nothing to lose’ attitude.’

Kenny on Greece challenge.

“We’d like a big away victory,” said the Ireland manager. “Greece is a formidable team.

“They won their four games last June in the [Nations League] group. They’re a team that has really improved under the manager, and I think they’re expansive, playing in a 4-3-3 formation.

“They’re already in a play-off [via the Nations League], so they’ll view it like they have nothing to lose.

“They’re quite an attacking team, so we’ll absolutely make sure we get ourselves into the best possible condition and frame of mind to play, and we’ll go in search of a big away win.”