I feel sorry for the Irish youth of today. From a footballing perspective it’s a bad time. Older readers will have enjoyed seeing the best Irish soccer stars playing week in week out in not only the English Premiership but also the Champions League. Roy Keane and Dennis Irwin, the latter who signed for Manchester United 32 years ago today, lifted much silverware between them with a host of talent, and appeared weekly for the top English club teams.
From 1988 to 2002 the Rep. of Ireland played in 4 major tournaments with memorable qualification victories over Spain in 1989 and the Dutch in 2001, not to mention wins against England and Italy in the finals of Euro88 and World Cup94. Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy guided the boys in green to some big scalps. It was a great 15 years or so to be a fan.
Contrast this to the latest era in Irish international competition. The days of punching above our weight have come to an end. Under Stephen Kenny’s reign Ireland has not beaten a team ranked in the top 100 of the ELO football rankings in a competitive match.
The data in the table below shows just how poor the results have been with Kenny unable to guide the team to victory against opponents ranked 48 places below with “failed to score” being a regular phrase in the media post-match reports.
Even during the major tournament “barren” period, between 1995 and 2001, the Rep. of Ireland were always in the ballpark of the playoffs. Now on the park the team are just played off. And against minnow opposition too.
It has been reported that Kenny’s FAI contract is worth in the region of €500,000 a year plus performance bonuses. It’s likely that a group of better able managers could be attracted for 30-40% more salary. Even if the initial outlay would approach €1 million a year the lost revenue from missing tournaments due to harder qualification draws brought about by defeats to Luxembourg and Armenia will cost more in the long run.
In an era when Premier League managers often don’t last 2 seasons it’s surprising that Stephen Kenny has been rewarded with a new deal based on the results to date.