Stephen Kenny has already secured his first victory as Republic of Ireland manager.
The decision to immediately appoint the former Dundalk boss as the country’s senior team manager in place of Mick McCarthy on Saturday might have been billed by the FAI as their natural succession plan being brought forward by the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in due to the Coronavirus. However, make no mistake about it for many in the FAI this was far from their first choice.
For the past few weeks several stories have been leaked to the national media from some top brass in Abbotstown trying to put pressure on Kenny to put back his August 1st start date to allow McCarthy to oversee the country for the shelved play-off with Slovakia and potentially the Euros themselves next summer if the country got there.
Immense pressure came on Kenny but he held firm. He had it in writing that his contract came into play on August 1st and would not be rolling over.
Why should he either?
After all, contracts have always been based on dates rather than events and while it is somewhat harsh on McCarthy, there will be many others in different walks of life whose contracts will expire during our present lockdown who won’t have the luxury of walking away with a seven figure pay-off.
Remove football emotion from the equation and the only logical step was to bring Kenny in now.
McCarthy loyalists have said he should have been allowed to see through the job he started following the “achievement” of getting Ireland to a play-off in the first place but given that Georgia also secured a play-off for what is now Euro 2021, the only achievement really was in finishing ahead of a Gibraltar side ranked 196th in the world.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that Ireland is represented at next summer’s Euros. With two games in Dublin, it is just the lift the country needs to its mood and coffers on the back of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
For any of those who witnessed first hand the impact Kenny had at Oriel Park, would you doubt him bringing the passion to the international side to get them over the line to be there next summer?
That’s no slight on McCarthy. The game moves on and bar ensuring Ireland were difficult to beat – something his predecessor Martin O’Neill had already nailed – did he really progress things?
There is palpable excitement not just in Dundalk but throughout Irish football about what Kenny can achieve. He’ll stick to his beliefs and focus on the style of football that meant U-21 games were now sold-out affairs rather than an afterthought with a few hundred in attendance.
He’ll have his tough days too. Already, there have been a few condescending comments in the media from former internationals including Richard Dunne and Gary Breen questioning his credentials.
He’s already shown a backbone to get the job. Now he will have the people of this area behind him no matter what.
Aside from his successes at Dundalk, living in Blackrock Stephen Kenny is now very much one of our own.
Just as the people of this area never turned on Steve Staunton when the knives were out for him, they will back Kenny to the hilt no matter what.
Whenever football resumes there will be immense pride in this area at seeing ‘The King’ lead out the national side and stand for Amhrán na bhFiann.
He already has one win under his belt. We can’t wait to cheer on the rest.