Football/Soccer

There are better days ahead for the country: new Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny paid tribute to front-line health workers in his first interview since being promoted to the senior job

AFTER being appointed Republic of Ireland senior manager a few months ahead of schedule, Stephen Kenny yesterday said it wasn’t a day for celebration and wanted to acknowledge the “heroic” efforts of the nation’s front-line staff in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to FAI TV, the former Derry and Dundalk manager said: “You look at the front-line workers – the doctors and nurses, the paramedics – everyone really – their self-sacrifices are heroic, and we really support them.

“At the moment we’ve got to stay safe, we’ve got to look after each other and, you know, there’s a lot of tragedy throughout Europe and in Ireland.

“People have been very, very disciplined throughout the country and hopefully we get the benefit of that. A lot of people have lost their lives, of course, and our thoughts are with them. [But] There are better days ahead and we can look forward in a sporting context to what is a magnificent year ahead at the Aviva Stadium.”

Given the lockdown on the island of Ireland there will be no public all-singing, all-dancing unveiling of Kenny as senior manager even though it was agreed with the FAI that he would assume the reins after July 31 2020.

But with the Euros postponed for a year, Ireland’s play-off moved to November or possibly next March, and the Nations League campaign looming in the autumn, the Association moved swiftly to promote the U21 manager to the top role.

Keith Andrews and Damien Duff will assist Kenny while the new manager has retained goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly. But there is no place for Robbie Keane who worked under outgoing boss Mick McCarthy and is still under contract to the FAI until 2022.

On Keane’s future, FAI interim CEO Gary Owens said: “We’re talking to Robbie’s agent about a role in the association so we’ll see where that goes. We’re very open to sitting down and talking to his agent about a role he may or may not play.”

In an interview with Off The Ball, Owens also intimated all bonuses for qualifying for the Euros would be honoured, which would mean McCarthy could be in line for another windfall from the association should Kenny negotiate a way to the finals via the play-offs.

“I’d be happy to pay all the bonuses if we get there, bearing in mind Mick got us to the play-offs,” Owens added.

The chief executive also hopes that the Republic can pencil in their twice delayed play-off with Slovakia in November in order to allow Kenny to have some friendly and Nation League games under his belt before that critical clash.

Owens added that both McCarthy and Kenny were easy to deal with when it came to severing the former’s contract a few months earlier than was agreed and appointing the latter.

“The contracts themselves were complicated enough but I suppose when you throw in the deferral of the play-offs and the Euros and the virus, we needed to give Stephen every opportunity to prepare for the Nations League programme in the autumn, so it was absolutely the right decision.”

On Andrews and Duff’s roles with the senior team, Kenny said: “Keith has been coaching the U16s, U17s and U18s and has coached with the U21s this year. We’d a great rapport, really and Damien was with Ireland’s U15s and did very well; he’s been with Shamrock Rovers. He’s now with Celtic and he’s been excellent there and has a very, very high work ethic and great experience. Alan Kelly has great experience too and is a very analytical goalkeeping coach and we’re delighted to have him.”

U21 assistant boss Jim Crawford takes over from Kenny and will be assisted by former Irish international John O’Shea.

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Football/Soccer