When Stephen Kenny was unveiled as the new Republic of Ireland U-21 manager back in November 2018 there was an almost comical moment mid-way through his press conference when a journalist’s phone interrupted him with the message ‘You’ve arrived’.
While the GPS notification brought more than a handful of giggles from this present, there was a different sort of interruption at his unveiling as senior team manager on Thursday.
Due to the current social distancing measures in place across the country, Kenny was forced to face the press for the first time in his new role digitally from his Blackrock home. The 48-year-old, with the aid of his wife Siobhan, took centre stage on the Microsoft Teams platform as journalists turned their cameras and mics on and off to pose him questions in turn.
It was during his response to one of these questions where he was discussing the unprecedented amount of games he hoped to oversee in the next year or so that a different kind of interruption emerged. His son Fionn passed by the window with the lawnmower, briefly disrupting the new Irish manager’s train of thoughts.
It no doubt brought a few giggles again but with all bar one camera off and mics muted, that prediction can’t be said with any real degree of certainty.
No doubt Kenny would have laughed with Fionn about it afterwards and while he wouldn’t have appreciated it at the time, the incident was an almost fitting interruption for how surreal this whole episode has been.
Were it not for Covid-19, Kenny could be still waiting in the wings until August to take the reins from Mick McCarthy and were it not for the current pandemic you can be sure the setting for his first dealings with the media would have been far removed from a room in his home in Blackrock.
The former Dundalk boss has made no secret of the fact that this is his dream job. He has had to toil to get there. There have been risks taken along the way and more than a couple of setbacks. Throughout it all the one thing he has had to consistently fall back on in good times and bad was family. Now, rather than celebrate a huge landmark in your life in the way that people traditionally would, he’s at home with only them to celebrate.
You suspect he wouldn’t have it any other way having paid tribute to wife Siobhan and children Niamh, Caoimhe, Fionn and Eoin for their support in getting him to what has always been his final destination.
“I’m very proud to be Irish manager,” he said.
“I’m very privileged, that’s for sure. It’s the ultimate honour really and it’s a proud moment for my family because I wouldn’t be here or be the manager of Ireland without the support of my family. I think that has been obvious.
“Some of my children have moved school three times. Niamh, my eldest, has moved school five times in my career in three different jurisdictions between the North and Scotland. That has been a big commitment from all of them, a massive commitment from all of them.
“All of the moving and moving schools, which is a big ordeal, I wouldn’t be where I am today as manager without their support so I’m grateful for that.”
Despite the “ultimate honour” of the new role, Kenny revealed that there were no real celebrations at his family home in Blackrock when he formally succeeded Mick McCarthy on April 4th.
“We didn’t really celebrate to be honest.
“It was a bit strange because there was so much to organise in such a short space of time in relation to all of the staff and so forth. We didn’t really celebrate to be fair.
“It was just a situation with the family. There’s six of us here in the house on lockdown and I’ve been using the time myself to have a few runs around the place.
“I’ve two daughters and two sons and they’ve all been busy with school work and college work. My daughter is on an internship at home at the moment so she is in lockdown working from home so we’ve a busy house.
“There wasn’t really any celebration because it probably didn’t feel right to do that. You’re looking at television a lot and what’s going on so it wasn’t a celebratory mode. Not that we don’t like to celebrate. I do like to celebrate my victories and I think that’s very important.
“Becoming the Ireland manager is a big event but we had a meal as a family and just discussed it but that was really it. It’s not very euphoric but that was it.”
People from this area will remember the scrutiny Steve Staunton got during his time as Ireland manager and with Kenny the first Irish boss to live in the country since Brian Kerr and before him Eoin Hand, there are fears that he could have several intrusions into his private life.
However, the former Dundalk manager says that is not a concern of his or his family right now.
“It’s not really a concern of mine at all to be honest.
“I’m sure there will be times that may prove difficult but I think the way that I’m looking at and the way my family are looking at it, we’re going to try and enjoy the job rather than be fearful about it or worry about the possibilities.
“I don’t live in Dublin. I don’t live in the middle of the city. I’m not really fearful of that.
“I want to live in Ireland. Ireland is my country. It’s where I was born and I want to live here. It doesn’t mean I won’t be at several games a week in the UK or wherever else I need to be but it’s not something really that bothers me or bothers us at all.
“We’re hoping to just try and enjoy our lives and enjoy this moment. It’s a very special opportunity and we must embrace it and not be fearful. Of course there will be issues but I’m not viewing it through a negative prism.
“We’re just going to enjoy our lives. We haven’t discussed it that much. I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I don’t need to change much and I don’t intend on changing except trying to improve as a coach and a manager. You only get one chance at this job so I have to do everything I can to do the best job that I can.”
Those living in Blackrock will regularly see Kenny out running the roads and despite a health scare in Sweden last September, he says he is fighting fit now.
“I’m absolutely brilliant,” he said when the question was put to him.
“I have no issues at all. I’m in fine health. That’s not an issue at all.”
There is a lot of hope and excitement around Kenny’s Ireland tenure and he insists he knows where he wants to go in the job.
“My experiences both good and bad have led me to a situation where I have absolute conviction in myself.
“I have no doubt in how I will do the job. I’ve a clear vision of what I want and a plan as to how we’re going to get there.”
Kenny has very much arrived.
The current pandemic means we don’t know for certain when we will see him lead the national team into battle for the first time but just like his son was mowing the lawn, you can be guaranteed that Kenny is getting everything in order to ensure he is ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.