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“This goes deeper than the manager and the Ireland performance”

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“If you don’t have an association with the League of Ireland, I don’t think you’d have much confidence in Stephen Kenny.”

On the first episode of LOI Arena, the new podcast about the League of Ireland and Irish football from Con Murphy, Conan Byrne and Pundit Arena, the lads discussed a busy weekend.

Finn Harps upset the odds to beat Dundalk 2-1 at Finn Park, a win which put them top of the Premier Division. Longford Town came from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with Bohemians at Dalymount. While St Patrick’s Athletic beat Drogheda United 2-1 at Richmond Park.

The main talking point from the weekend’s action, however, was the Republic of Ireland national team losing 1-0 to Luxembourg at the Aviva Stadium.

Stephen Kenny has come under immense pressure following the defeat, a result which has significantly damaged Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Following the loss, Kenny’s position has been questioned. The former Dundalk, Bohemians and Derry City coach has failed to oversee a win 10 games into his reign.

On LOI Arena, Conan Byrne said that problems go deeper than the Ireland manager and that those who do not follow the League of Ireland and aren’t as familiar with Kenny’s achievements in the sport, will be asking questions of the coach given Ireland’s poor run.

However; Conan, Con and guests Tony O’Donoghue and Neale Fenn stressed that Irish football’s issues go deeper than Kenny and the current Ireland squad.

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LOI Arena: Episode one.

“I’m one of Stephen Kenny’s biggest fans,” Byrne said. “But I don’t think I could have anticipated that result.

“Straight away after the final whistle, I was like, ‘how is he going to survive this?’ That was my first initial thought that came into my head.

“But then on reflection… take a look at the team yesterday. The two wing-backs are completely gone in confidence. I thought that was probably Enda Stevens’ worst performance in an Irish shirt yesterday. He gave the ball away numerous times. We all know about Matt Doherty’s start to his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

“But I also think that it was interesting to hear Seamus Coleman’s interview, where he was saying players were afraid to get on the ball. Now, this is a team where Stephen Kenny has drastically changed our approach to playing football and the one thing he would need from his players is for them to get on the ball. I thought in the final third we were extremely poor.”

“Listen, we were never going to get to the World Cup,” Conan continued.

“I had no doubt in mind about that. At the same time, we need to put in performances that will get everybody on board with Stephen Kenny’s ethos.

“If you don’t have an association with the League of Ireland, I don’t think you’d have much confidence in Stephen Kenny. And that’s something that needs to change, obviously, and that comes with results.

“It’s a pity that it’s so long until the next competitive game, because usually when you have a result like that you just want to get back out onto the pitch and get another game under your belt.

“So, this will drag on, no matter what the result will be against Qatar. This will drag on and people will still talk about it, but it goes deeper than the manager and the performance last night.”

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Tony O’Donoghue, RTÉ’s soccer correspondent, was a guest on the show, along with Neale Fenn, the former Cork City and Longford manager. Tony was covering the match in Dublin and he spoke about interviewing Kenny after the match.

“First of all, it was a terrible night,” O’Donoghue said.

“That was the overriding feeling. I think everyone wanted a good result for the country, for Stephen, for the new batch of players. And it was a terrible result. In a way, I’m glad there weren’t fans there because I wonder would they have shown their disapproval loudly and we would have had boos, which would have been terrible.

“That’s my job, I have had to do that for a long, long time now. I think it’s only right that Stephen Kenny is held to account the way other Ireland managers have been.

“The job of the interviewer is to ask questions. I feel terrible. Stephen was a long time coming out, the programme was nearly over, these are all pressures.”

O’Donoghue spoke about trying to strike the right balance between holding Kenny to account, as he has with other Ireland managers, and being respectful to the coach.

“You want to know how to phrase your questions, and how to be sensitive, but also to bring across the fact that undoubtedly people watching would have been extremely disappointed.

“A tough moment and I didn’t enjoy it, that’s for sure. Stephen was very, very honest, as he always is, but a tough, tough night and a chastening one for Ireland.”

LOI Arena is the new home for great League of Ireland discussion. Each week Con and Conan will take to the mic to analyse the highs and lows from the Greatest League in the World. The lads are joined by great guests each week who share a passion for all things LOI and Irish Football.

Episode 1 of LOI Arena is free to listen to here.

The podcast will form part of a new membership offering from Pundit Arena that focuses on Irish soccer fans for just €3.99 per month, less than a euro per week.

Fans can sign up or register to listen for free at https://punditarena.com/loiarena

You can also follow the show on Twitter and contact us via email at [email protected].

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