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08th Sep 2021

Brian Kerr sticks the boot in while Liam Brady emerges as Stephen Kenny’s biggest ally

Niall McIntyre

Brian Kerr isn’t overly impressed by the Stephen Kenny revolution. That much is clear.

Maybe it was a leap of faith, maybe it was just a misconception but given their comparable backgrounds as League of Ireland managers, as Ireland underage bosses and as advocates of a possession-based game, from a punditry perspective, the suspicion was that Kerr would represent Stephen Kenny’s biggest ally if the thing went belly-up.

Well that wasn’t much of a prediction.

With no win in 16 games now, it’s fair to say that it hasn’t been plain-sailing for the new national team boss but despite the odd green shoot – the performance against Portugal, the result on Tuesday night – Kerr has instead emerged as Kenny’s toughest critic, condemning his interviews and denouncing any hint of positivity on the pitch.

And so as Kerr yearns for results and performances that appear to be beyond this bunch of players, surprisingly, it is Liam Brady and less surprisingly Richie Sadlier who are giving Kenny the time of day. We’ll start with Brian.

“If ever a team got out of jail it was Ireland tonight,” said Kerr on Virgin Media Sport immediately after our 1-1 draw with the Serbs.

“We got battered for 85 minutes. How Serbia didn’t score another is down to poor finishing & the brilliance of Bazunu.”

The Irish fans, perhaps resigned to the fact that we don’t have a front three to compete with Jovic, Tadic and Mitrovic, seemed pleased with the effort and performance as pointed out to him by his host Tommy Martin, but Kerr rebuffed this suggestion almost immediately.

“Ah yeah, well, they probably came along fearing the worst, and it was the worst for most of it.”

This post-match verdict seemed fairly cut-throat but it was only when coupled with his pre-match criticism that Kerr’s dissatisfaction with Kenny’s reign really emerged.

“I thought a lot of his interview yesterday was best forgotten from his point of view,” said Kerr.

“I think it’s delusional for him to think that nobody was too worried about whether we qualified for the World Cup or not…I think a lot of what he’s said, he’s playing for time, in saying that he wanted to build a team for 2024. That’s the first time that was mentioned to us, that this tournament wasn’t an issue and that it was all about building a team. It had to be about winning matches. I’ve never heard of that before where a manager dismisses a tournament and says it wasn’t about this, it’s about the next one, that’s just extraordinary.”

Liam Brady, on the other hand, praised that same Kenny interview for its realism and honesty.

“I think his press-conference yesterday got a lot of people on his side,” said the former Juventus, Arsenal and Inter Milan player on RTE.

“He said he was planning for the Euros a year down the line, knew it was going to be difficult to qualify from this group. I think people realise that’s the case. I think the fact that he said it as plainly as he did – I’ve spoken to a few people, and they felt he didn’t do himself any harm by what he said yesterday…”

How can Stephen Kenny win? Maybe Kerr is onto something in fairness, by refusing to accept mediocrity but half the country seems to have accepted it at this stage, that that mediocre is all our football team are.

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