Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins believes that the Republic of Ireland will reap what Stephen Kenny has done for his country.
The Dubliner has given over 20 debuts during his time as Ireland boss and Higgins, who was part of Kenny’s back-room team, as opposition analyst, before taking over at the Brandywell in 2021, believes in years to come the likes of Evan Ferguson, Gavin Bazunu and Jason Knight will be seasoned Irish internationals.
While the Limavady man didn’t want to discuss Kenny’s situation, he did concede that his old boss is under pressure after Sunday night’s loss to Holland, their fourth in their last five European qualifying games.
“I had a feeling this would come up, but I don't want to get drawn into it because I obviously think extremely highly of Stephen,” insisted Higgins. “He's been single-handedly the biggest influence in my career. Both as a player, as a coach of the manager.
“He's been an amazing mentor to me. So one thing I'm certainly not going to do is sit here and get taken down a road I don't want to go down.
“What I would say is Irish football, in the future, will be in a better place given the amount of young players that have come into the squad, the amount of young players that he’s exposed to huge international matches.
“And I know he's coming under a lot of criticism. But what I think down the road, we'll see the huge benefit of what's happening in the last couple years. I know results haven’t been great, but Irish football will be a better place down the road.
“I understand that people don’t have patience in football and I understand that people want instant success, but what I would say is that both the North and the South have really, really talented young players.
“You look at the North players like Shea Charles and Conor Bradley and you look at the South - Evan Ferguson and you saw Jason Knight’s performance against Holland. So look both the North and South have really, really talented young players and while people want results now, I do think you’ll see huge benefits of the young talent over the next few years.”
The 38-year-old travelled to Paris last week as a fan to watch Ireland lose 2-0 to France, admitting he enjoyed watching a game with no pressure.
“It was good,” he stated. “It just happened that our game against UCD was on the Wednesday so I flew out of Dublin on the Thursday morning, flew back into Belfast on Friday morning and I enjoyed myself.
“It was nice to be on the relaxed side of the fence.”