Kenny's bad luck leaves us all feeling a bit green

Stephen Kenny's unprecedented run of bad luck sees him still without a win after nine games. Despite promising signs in the game against Serbia, he now faces a must-win game against Luxembourg tomorrow evening if he hopes to stay on as Irish manager. 
Kenny's bad luck leaves us all feeling a bit green

FRUSTRATION: Republic of Ireland head coach Stephen Kenny gesticulates on the touchline during the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Serbia at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia. Picture: PA Wire

THERE is a piece of folklore in English sport that says it is unlucky for a team to wear green. The history behind this is a mixture of ancient druidic superstition and maybe even some anti-Irish prejudice. Whatever the reason, only two league sides in the whole of England play in green home kits. They are Plymouth Argyle and Yeovil Town, whose record does little to discredit the concept that those in verdant shirts are doomed to bad luck.

If one is to believe such things, you might forgive Stephen Kenny if he decides the Irish national team make a radical alteration to the colour of the home kit before tomorrow's game against Luxembourg. Maybe to some form of Dundalk white or even Dubliner blue, as it seems the only luck this manager has had while in charge of Ireland is bad luck.

It all seemed so positive for Kenny back in April of last year when he took over from Mick McCarthy. The nation, weary of the John Delaney FAI scandals and seeking hope and distraction from the news of the developing pandemic, looked on his assumption to the top job with such great hope. His devastatingly successful title campaigns with Dundalk made him the most accomplished domestic manager in recent history, while his confidence-building wins as the U21 manager seemed to confirm his appointment as a good idea in the national opinion.

It's from that point all good fortune seemed to abandon the Dubliner completely.

This even includes the moment of his appointment. Kenny was made the U21 manager in 2018, as a way to ultimately groom him for the top job in the summer of 2020. Unfortunately, this was pushed forward to April as McCarthy's contract effectively ended early with Euro 2020's postponement due to Covid-19. Thus rushing his appointment three months ahead of his plans.

Immediately, the pandemic had the adverse consequences of denying him access to the players under his control. This would be a difficult situation in normal circumstances but it also coincided with a vital playoff game in just his third game in charge, which saw us crash out of the delayed Euro 2020 qualification playoff with a heartbreaking 4-2 shootout defeat at the hands of Slovakia.

Multiple injuries to players dogged his tenure's every step, while his matches were punctuated by a bizarre sequence of positive/ false positive Covid-19 tests to players which had the same effect of denying him some of his top players at crucial junctures, even though most of them were not actually infected.

HAPPIER TIMES: Republic of Ireland coach Damien Duff (left) and manager Stephen Kenny during the training session at the FAI National Training Centre, Abbotstown, Ireland.
HAPPIER TIMES: Republic of Ireland coach Damien Duff (left) and manager Stephen Kenny during the training session at the FAI National Training Centre, Abbotstown, Ireland.

Beyond the weird 'videogate' scandal in Wembley ahead of the England friendly, off the field, nothing seemed to go right for the 49-year-old boss either. In the middle of the international hiatus, this winter, Kenny first had the resignation of the first-team coach Damien Duff and the fallout on squad morale by losing such an iconic and respected character among the players. Duff's departure was closely followed by veteran goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly.

The big hope that Kenny would bring his exciting style of play, shown in Dundalk into the national side failed to transpire. In November, performances on the field hit their low point against Bulgaria at home at the end of the Nations League campaign when we failed to muster a shot on target for the entire game. Ending Kenny's first year in charge with no wins from eight games and the sum total of one goal scored.

2021

The arrival of 2021 must have been greeted like no other in the Kenny household. But as events this week have shown, 2021's luck looks no better as injuries to his players continue to dog his plans, culminating this week with the news that Caoimhin Kelleher, Kevin Long, Conor Hourihane, and Callum O'Dowda joined the list of the already injured Darren Randolph, John Eagan, and James McCarthy.

LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL: Republic of Ireland's Alan Browne scores the side's first goal of the game during their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia. Picture: PA Wire
LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL: Republic of Ireland's Alan Browne scores the side's first goal of the game during their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia. Picture: PA Wire

The defeat on Wednesday to Serbia was another setback, but the skill and spirit of this inexperienced Irish team shows there is still life in the hope for Kenny's reign. One could only imagine what might have been achieved if Kenny had half the injured players in the squad at his disposal. 

There was a groundswell of support after the game to give more time to Kenny, but that might change quickly if they should stumble tomorrow. 

The situation now for Kenny is a must-win clash against group minnows, Luxembourg. In previous times, the only question would be; how many goals will we win by?

In light of the ongoing nightmare for the international squad, we can now only pray for a victory. Yes, victory over the mighty Luxembourgers.

For Kenny, it is an absolute must. Sure we all now understand that he was dealt enough dud cards to scupper the fortunes of three managers. But I fear his short-lived time as the Republic of Ireland's manager, even with all the best will in the world, may not survive a poor result at the hands of the tiny European duchy.

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