The big, big chances Ireland missed v Finland that Kenny critics don't want to see 11 months ago

The big, big chances Ireland missed v Finland that Kenny critics don't want to see

What more do you want of a manager than to prepare a team and a system that creates enough chances to win games?

Sooner or later, the players have to put the ball in the back of the damn net because what happens, despite blatantly obvious strides already being taken by an Ireland camp that lost eight players to Covid regulations, cynics overlook domination and stats because "why does it matter if they're not winning?"


What is it you think Mick McCarthy did? Or Martin O'Neill? Or Giovanni Trapattoni?

"They won games," you'd say. No they didn't. Not often. Ireland have qualified for 2 of the last 9 major tournaments - one of them was an embarrassment. McCarthy scored 7 goals in 8 games in a group that consisted of four matches against Georgia and Gibraltar. And, crucially, Stephen Kenny's team is doing more to win games.

They're creating more chances and they're conceding less chances. Statistically, that will pay off, that's all he can do and it's all you should want him to do.

The reality is, if Conor Hourihane doesn't miss from six yards out against Slovakia, Ireland have one match in Belfast to get them to the Euros and they're going there off the back of not just beating Slovakia, dominating them in a way that we haven't done since we had Duff, Keane and Keane playing in the same attack. If Alan Browne doesn't hit the post, or doesn't panic when Stevens puts him straight through, or Doherty doesn't rush and hit the side-netting - or Idah and Connolly aren't ruled out pre-game - Ireland get their deserved win and nothing else is said about it.

Against Finland on Wednesday night, it was the same story with Stephen Kenny's Ireland, particularly in this camp.


They had by far the best chances and they looked, for the most part, comfortable at the back. If it wasn't for a cock-up, they'd now have kept three clean sheets in succession which flies in the face of whatever magic people think McCarthy and O'Neill were pulling, which is all the more baffling considering the state of Ireland's last two campaigns.

When we talk about Kenny's Ireland creating opportunities, we're talking about big, big gaping chances - the sort where if they'd scored just three of them, there'd be no need to ask why or how. They'd win these games 3-0 or 3-1 and we'd all move on thinking that was just the natural consequence of what unfolded for 90 minutes.

But they're not scoring them. They keep missing. They're being presented with gold, no strings attached, and they're passing it up. Kenny can't do anything about that, other than continue to present them with the same picture.

And some of the pictures are depressingly bad.

1. Jeff Hendrick 15 yards out in the middle of the box with the ball being teed up for him


What do you do about that?

He actually had a full half of the goal completely open for him as well but, instead, he hits a meek effort straight as an arrow.


In fact, it was so tame and lacking in conviction that the first defender managed to get across to block it.

This was the product of a great ball across from Sean Maguire, a nice touch from Horgan who laid it out to Hendrick's right foot and Hendrick scuffled one in the direction of the bodies.

That chance, incidentally, was created because Hourihane took a quick free kick on the wing after Aaron Connolly was fouled. Rather than waiting for Duffy and the boys to get up, Hourihane had urgency, pace, quick thinking and set Maguire away and a much better chance presented itself. A chance that was somehow missed.

2. Enda Stevens hits the bar


He gets in behind, he rushes a little but he still lifts it over the 'keeper... but off the bar.

3. Matt Doherty hits wide

Doherty is in, he can take a touch and either tee himself up a little more or find Connolly free inside.

He hits it first time and wide of the near post. A minute later, Finland score from a gift offered to them.

4. Shane Duffy misses a free header 7 yards out

From the middle of the goals, straight in from a corner, Duffy is up over the ball, he's unchallenged and he hits it over.

His own reaction showed he should've scored.

Moments later, Matt Doherty's header is saved from a nice Robbie Brady free kick.

By no means was this one gilt edged, it would've been a tremendous goal, but, imagine that, a Stephen Kenny team creating chances from set pieces.

5. Ronan Curtis' shot is saved at the post

Another nice ball from Brady, flicked on to Curtis who is up and just six yards out but, despite getting the ball down low, the 'keeper does well to save at the near post.

This, like the others though, is not a half chance.

Half chances

But there were half chances in the game too - like the ones that Connolly talks about missing when he said he was "a bit selfish" instead of laying in a team mate.

There were openings not taken - like when Sean Maguire was in and kicked the ball 5 metres in front of him with his first touch.

Or when Matt Doherty was straight through on goal and despite having time and space to roll it 7 yards through to him, Jeff Hendrick bounced it and played it behind Doherty instead.

All Stephen Kenny can do is get Ireland into these positions and he's doing it better than any other manager has done.

If you're complaining about him, ask yourself, what exactly are you complaining about? And why?

They're creating more chances, they're conceding less chances. What else is there to talk about?