Ireland boss Kenny still looking for first win, a goalscorer and that bit of luck

Ireland boss Kenny still looking for first win, a goalscorer and that bit of luck

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during the UEFA Nations League B match between Finland and Republic of Ireland at Helsingin Olympiastadion in Helsinki, Finland. Photo by Jussi Eskola/Sportsfile

Finland 1 Ireland 0

STEPHEN KENNY'S winless run as the Republic of Ireland manager now stands at five games following their narrow 1-0 loss away to Finland in the UEFA Nations League on Wednesday night.

During that time, Ireland hasn’t exactly come up against some of the powerhouses in European football, and yet they still have only managed to score one goal.

And yet, there are still a number of positive signs to take from the beginning of life under the new boss.

After years of sitting back, defending deep and lumping the ball long - the Martin O’Neill and Mick McCarthy way- the first International break under Kenny was never going to see Ireland emulate Barcelona under Pep Guardiola.

Switching the style and the mindset of a squad can be a slow process but it can be even slower when you consider that players are only with the national set-up for a short period of time.

The squad was together in full for only three days before the Dubliner’s first game in charge away to Bulgaria on Thursday, September 3.

While the result in Sofia - a 1-1 draw - and the manner in which it was achieved - Shane Duffy scoring an injury-time header from a corner - may suggest that the more things change the more they remain the same, Ireland’s 552 completed passes - 90 percent of those were accurate - compared to Bulgaria’s 290 provided reasons to be optimistic.

That optimism was slightly dented three days later when the Boys in Green were beaten 1-0 by Finland at the Aviva stadium, proving that more work was needed to be done.

The majority of this Irish squad ply their trade in English football so the fact those games were also played the week before the club season started - so technically they were played during their pre-season - meant that judgment should be saved for a later date.

So onto the second international break of the Stephen Kenny reign and his third game at the helm, away to Slovakia in a hugely important Euro 2021 playoff semi-final.

The history books will again show that the Irish failed to score - this time they had 120 minutes to do so - and again failed to get the win that they so desperately craved.

But the history books won’t mention Conor Hourihane’s sitter at the end of normal time or Alan Browne’s deft effort from close range that struck the near post in extra time (fortunately for the Cork pair).

They also may not include details of why Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly missed out due to complications regarding the Coronavirus.

Ireland's Sean Maguire dejected after a missed chance
Ireland's Sean Maguire dejected after a missed chance

Those unusual circumstances around Covid-19 also impacted the next game in Dublin three days later when a severely weakened Irish side was held to a 0-0 draw by Ryan Giggs’ Wales.

The last thing they probably needed after all that was another trip and a third international match in just six days. With approximately 8,000 fans in attendance on Wednesday, Ireland still lacked a finish and they were ultimately beaten 1-0 by their Finnish rivals.

"Whatever about performances, I can tell you from experience, you've got to win games," said Mick McCarthy during his commentary on Sky Sports.

As right as he is, they got neither the performances nor the results during his second spell as Ireland boss so maybe that is another plus in the Stephen Kenny column.

If the performances continue to improve as they have done between his first game in charge and his fifth, the goals and the good results will come.

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