Stephen Kenny will face down all the doubters: Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin
CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin insists new Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny will win round the doubters quickly after being promoted to the senior role ahead of schedule.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the international football calendar over the coronavirus pandemic, Mick McCarthy stepped down four months earlier than anticipated last weekend.
The former Ireland captain was expected to be in the senior post until July 31 2020 before handing over to U21 boss Stephen Kenny but the delay of the Euro finals and the play-offs were a game-changer.
While highly-rated among the League of Ireland community, several ex-international players expressed reservations over the Dubliner’s ability to cut it at the top level among them Gary Breen, Richard Dunne and Kevin Kilbane.
Brian Kerr, whose coaching career followed a similar path as Kenny's, came under fierce scrutiny during his time in charge because he didn't play at the highest level.
While acknowledging Kenny will have to earn the respect of the senior players, McLaughlin has no doubts over his former manager in being a success.
“He probably will suffer from that: if you didn’t play at the top level… but he’ll stamp that perception out very quickly because he’ll earn the respect of those he works with within a couple of weeks,” said McLaughlin.
“When you’re good at what you do that earns you respect. His drive for success is unbelievable. I only worked with him for a short time but I have never come across anything like it since.”
McLaughlin played under Kenny for 18 months in the mid-Noughties and was blown away by his attention to detail for games.
“When you look back on it, his ideas and the way he thought and his attention to detail, it was mind-blowing,” said the Reds manager.
“At the time you were thinking: ‘Is that kind of detail that important?’ But they were key things to Stephen Kenny and I’m going back 15 years ago. He would concentrate so much on a goal-kick or a throw-in drill for almost a full session and maybe you were thinking that it was over the top, but it wasn’t.
“He made sure he kept working on his players until he got things right. I’m not surprised he’s at the top now. He gets the best out of every player. Look at him in Dundalk and Derry City – he dug the foundations and they are still in place now. That’s no disrespect to the managers who are in place at the minute.
“Vinny Perth has continued on from what Stephen Kenny did at Dundalk and deserves all the success he’s got. And big Declan Devine at Derry City worked under Kenny as well. Also, Stephen’s ability to spot young talent is brilliant. He pulled off so many great signings wherever he’s gone.
“I remember Ruairi Higgins was playing U19s at Coventry and was going through a bad time with injury and was on his way home. He signed for Derry City and went on to become one of the best players in the League of Ireland. There are loads of examples of those kinds of signings during his time with Dundalk.”
McCarthy didn’t have a lot of time to leave his imprint on the squad having no friendly games before being thrown straight into the Euro qualifiers.
Under the outgoing manager, Ireland lost just one competitive game [to Switzerland] in 10 and earned a play-off semi-final berth against Slovakia after finishing behind the Swiss and Denmark.
Despite his short spell in charge, McCarthy’s team was criticised for their lack of enterprise.
“We’re all Ireland fans and we go down and watch them when we get the opportunity. I don’t think the football over the last couple of years has been free-flowing, but I think Stephen Kenny will breathe new life into the team because he’ll give young players a chance and he’ll give the whole country a lift.”
It is hoped Kenny will have some friendly and Nations League games in the autumn before the Irish face Slovakia in their play-offs which has suffered two postponements already. The FAI hope to secure a November slot for the Slovakia tie in Bratislava.
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Football League has said it is "impossible to commit to a date" when the domestic season might resume, but remained hopeful it could be finished.
"We have been in regular discussion with other leagues across the continent and continue to review information and guidance from UEFA and the European Clubs Association," a statement said.
"Following further guidance received from the European Leagues we remain committed at this stage to completing the current NI Football League season at Premiership, Championship and Premier Intermediate League level.
"There is also a commitment to still contest the 2020 Women’s Premiership season this year. In reality, it remains impossible to commit to a date when competitions could resume, this will of course depend on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the guidance from the UK Government & health authorities but most importantly when it is safe for everyone to return to a sporting arena."
The statement continued: "The NI Football League remains committed to continuing to assist our member clubs with support and guidance, including in relation to funding and financial support."