Ireland hopeful of November playoff date against Slovakia
Who knows where we'll all be by November 2020.
The Football Association of Ireland are hoping that Stephen Kenny's first game as manager of the senior men's team will not be a Euro 2021 Playoff Eliminator.
On Saturday, Kenny was confirmed as Ireland manager as Mick McCarthy stepped down four months earlier than expected. McCarthy had been contracted up until July 31 but the Covid-19 pandemic has led to mass cancellations and postponements of sporting events and football does not look like coming back soon.
The FAI today confirmed that goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly was being retained by Kenny, from McCarthy's staff, while former Ireland internationals Keith Andrews and Damien Duff would be assistants to the former Longford and Dundalk boss.
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Jim Crawford has been promoted to Ireland U21 boss with former Manchester United and Ireland defender John O'Shea coming in as his assistant. Robbie Keane had a contract with the association until the summer of 2022 and FAI interim chief executive Gary Owens says he has been in touch with his representatives about coming to an agreement. Keane may well step back to concentrate on his assistant coach role with Middlesbrough.
Owens, meanwhile, has told FAI TV that he would prefer a November date for Ireland's Euro 2021 play-off eliminator [semi-final] against Slovakia. He commented:
"I'd like the play-off as late as we can. We have been trying to get the play-off in the November series, rather than in September or October. That would give Stephen and his team the chance to play some friendlies and Nations League matches in advance of the play-off.
"It's going to be a very busy and exciting time. You're going to have nine matches in the Autumn, followed by the World Cup [Qualifiers] next year."
That, of course, is dependant on governments and health experts, and workers, getting a handle on this Covid-19 pandemic and sport gradually being allowed to return to normal.
That being said, giving Kenny a couple of friendlies or Nations League fixtures to get a feel for his new team would be much better than going into the Slovakia game cold.
Owens also paid tribute to Mick McCarthy during his interview. "In the short time I have worked with him" said Owens, "I found him to be extremely professional. In loads of ways, I'm sorry I'm not going to be working with him in the future. It's Stephen's time, and we need to get right behind him and his new team."