Opinion: Adam Idah's progress shows why we must have faith in Stephen Kenny

Andrew Horgan looks at Ireland's fortunes across the past week and makes the case for backing the manager
Opinion: Adam Idah's progress shows why we must have faith in Stephen Kenny

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny and Adam Idah before the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match on Tuesday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

One of the banners unfurled behind the goal prior to the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier with Serbia was quite clear and direct in its message.

On a simple white cloth, written in black capital letters it said; IN KENNY WE TRUST. The timing of its unveiling couldn’t have been better.

It came on the back of an absolutely horrendous draw against Azerbaijan at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening and it came at a time when Stephen Kenny’s position was under serious threat.

But it showed that the supporters - most of whom, at least anyway - have seen enough signs in what Kenny has been trying to do and what he has been trying to implement for him to be given more time to see it bear fruit.

The manner of the heartbreaking late defeat away to Portgual had the ‘Kenny In’ brigade gaining in numbers but some of those had again jumped ship back to the ‘Kenny Out’ group following the 1-1 with the Azerbaijanis before reverting to type following the spirited 1-1 with the Serbians.

It shouldn’t be like this. It’s going to take time given the lack of quality that is currently in the senior set-up, the age profile of the group, and just in general the amount of time it takes to change a culture. More need to believe that.

One thing that is for certain, the players are still fighting for the manager. Against Portugal, they fought until the bitter end to get a result but it just wasn’t to be. Against Azerbaijan, they battled until the end grab an equaliser before then pushing for a winner that unfortunately didn’t come. And the same was true against Serbia.

Two of those players are from Cork and both have surely sealed their place in Ireland’s strongest side.

John Egan’s goal away to Portgual - his first finish at senior level - will live long in the memory but his performances in all three games have been supremely commanding.

John Egan of Republic of Ireland in action against Aleksandar Mitrovic of Serbia. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
John Egan of Republic of Ireland in action against Aleksandar Mitrovic of Serbia. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

And Adam Idah’s hustling and harrying against opposition defenders, as well as his ability to hold the ball up and link play with his teammates should mean he will keep the number nine shirt for the foreseeable future.

He was outstanding against Portugal, Man of the Match against Azerbaijan, and despite not playing regularly at club level with Norwich he still found the fitness to put in a shift against Serbia.

Alan Browne will need more game time following his spell on the sidelines due to injury and Covid issues before he can properly show what he is capable of again, same with Conor Hourihane, who had a decent cameo coming off the bench on Tuesday evening.

Kenny name-checked both Chiedozie Ogbene and Caoimhin Kelleher in his post-match press briefing ensuring that they still remain part of his plans. 

The Mahon shot-stopper, who is likely to feature next month against Qatar, now faces an almighty task to oust the incredible Gavin Bazunu as Ireland’s number one.

There were only two points but plenty of positives from the most recent international break from an Ireland and Cork perspective but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Kenny’s men have shown they can compete with the better sides and now the task must be to score more goals in order to beat the lesser nations.

Qualifying for next year’s World Cup is now virtually impossible, but this management team should be backed and given the chance to reach Euro 2024.

Ireland's Alan Browne reacts as he fails to control a cross into the box against Serbia. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Ireland's Alan Browne reacts as he fails to control a cross into the box against Serbia. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

They’re certainly ready to fight for it.

“We have a plan in place. I made the decision – right or wrong – that we would build this squad to be a really, really competitive team to qualify for Germany 2024,” Kenny enthused recently.

“I think there’s real progress overall, to be honest. That’s the way I see it, the way my staff and all the coaches see it and there are a lot of people behind us.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t, who say ‘that’s not your job to develop the game here, your job is just to win the next game’.

“That kind of near-sightedness doesn’t create anything, you might beat teams that you should beat but you’ll never beat the teams you strive to beat.

“You’re trying to build something tangible over a period of time and that can be successful.” 

So let's support him.

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