Kenny’s Kids Ireland Player of the Year.
2021 might have started poorly for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland but optimism is now the overriding emotion amongst supporters.
The team’s style of play lends itself to entertaining viewing. The influx of superb youngsters like Gavin Bazunu, Andrew Omobamidele and Adam Idah is thoroughly refreshing. The manager’s communication with the press brings a sense of identity, unity and confidence to the party.
All together, 2021 should be remembered as the year when the Irish football team reconnected with its supporters.
Ireland’s transformative year.
This is a new Ireland team that represents everybody. Stephen Kenny pledged to formulate a team that will “exhilarate” supporters when he took the job. Just over a year into his reign and it’s difficult to remember more widespread interest in Ireland’s fortunes.
Last summer’s draw away to Hungary injected a level of hope when it was needed most. Autumn’s fixtures against Serbia, Portugal, Azerbaijan and Qatar proved that it was worth believing.
And of course, Kenny could not have turned Ireland’s results around without the help of some talented footballers. He believed in them and his convictions were validated. Despite what previous managers might have implied, this country has some very good footballers capable of expressing themselves in the green shirt.
These are the three players that caught the eye the most in 2021. Feel free to vote for your player of the year at the bottom of the article.
Nominee #1: Gavin Bazunu
Brilliant Bazunu. The 19-year-old was voted as RTE’s Young Sportsperson of the Year as just reward for an incredible break-out year with the Boys in Green.
The teenage stopper, on loan at Portsmouth from Manchester City, produced a collection of memorable saves throughout the campaign and is only going to get better. His maturity, leadership and distribution of the football are also fully deserving of lofty praise.
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) November 14, 2021
Not only did he stop Cristiano Ronaldo from 12 yards in Faro, as he also shone against Serbia at the Aviva and made one of the best saves you will ever see away to Luxembourg.
There is nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. He’s a hugely exciting talent and a big future awaits.
Nominee #2: John Egan
Every one of Ireland’s defenders have been excellent, so consider this as a nomination for the defensive union.
The five-at-the-back set-up introduced by Chelsea assistant Anthony Barry in the summer made Ireland extra secure and one man who personified everything good about the side’s play was Cork’s John Egan.
Where do you want your statue John Egan? ??⚽️❤
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) September 1, 2021
Never flustered and forever alert to danger, it is no wonder Stephen Kenny went as far as stating that the centre-back “belongs in the Champions League.” Egan’s defensive assurance and confidence on the ball are crucial ingredients to Ireland’s play.
In the absence of Seamus Coleman, Egan and Shane Duffy rotated the armband this year and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bladesman named as full-time skipper for the World Cup qualifiers. His goal against Portugal will go down as the highlight of his campaign but in truth he didn’t put a foot wrong across the year.
Nominee #3: Callum Robinson
He might have missed the first chunk of the year, but Callum Robinson’s clinical finishing in autumn injected a shot to the arm when Ireland needed it most.
The Azerbaijan away game could easily have turned into another nervy afternoon, but the West Brom attacker stood up and made himself counted to remove huge weight from his teammates’ shoulders
The amazing sequence of passes that led to Callum Robinson's hattrick goal ?
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) October 14, 2021
A few days later, the mood music got even brighter. Robinson’s hat-trick against Qatar was the first scored by an Irish player since Robbie Keane. He then capped off the year with a tidy tap-in in the 3-0 victory over Luxembourg.
The narrative of Stephen Kenny’s early days was that the team was playing well but just couldn’t score goals. When Callum Robinson was fit and available, good performance turned into good results.
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