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15th Jun 2024

Stephen Kenny says he will respond to James McClean criticism

Ronan Calvert

Kenny McClean

Kenny will respond to McClean comments.

Former Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has vowed to respond to comments made by James McClean about his management of the national team.

McClean made his RTÉ punditry debut during Ireland’s 3-0 defeat to Portugal last Tuesday and grabbed headlines by slamming Kenny’s move towards a more possession-orientated style of football.

“It’s a trait that’s served us well,” explained McClean, referring to long-ball football.

“We qualified for two tournaments, EURO 2012 and ’16. We got to a play-off under Mick McCarthy [for Euro 2020]. If Mick had been in charge, we may potentially have gotten to three in a row under that style of play.”

McClean was incorrect on this front. McCarthy didn’t earn Ireland a play-off for Euro 2020.

Ireland’s semi-final fixture against Slovakia as a result of the team’s Nations League seeding – when Martin O’Neill was the manager.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear McClean suggest Ireland would have had a better chance at winning that play-off tie had McCarthy, rather than Kenny, been in charge.

“I think nowadays you can get sucked into the whole ‘Total Football’ and statistics,” he elaborated.

“Yeah, we had 59 per cent possession, but a lot of it was across the backline, and we lost the game.

“We’ve always been hard to beat and, I think, in the last few years we’ve gone away from that,” he continued.

“We’ve built our foundations on [being] hard to beat and having a bit of nastiness about us.”

And now we await the response.

When asked about McClean’s comments ahead of his St Pat’s side’s fixture against Shamrock Rovers, Kenny vowed to comment on the matter soon.

“To be honest with you I will speak on the issue in the near future but I’m not going to do it on the eve of Rovers and Pats,” said Kenny.

“I don’t want it to be… tomorrow’s game is important, but I will speak at some stage.”

It turned out that Kenny made the right choice not to distract from the match with a war of words as his Pat’s team went on to beat the four-in-a-row reigning champions with a last-gasp 2-1 winner.

He was asked about the McClean issue again after the victory but it turned out that when he said “near future” he didn’t mean that near.

“Listen, I have a long association with James,” explained Kenny.

“Obviously, from when he was sixteen (at Derry City) to when I sold him to Sunderland subsequently.

“I have a very long association with him but I think I’ll talk about that in the future.

“I think tonight is about the game itself and I don’t want to talk about that really tonight.”

Although Kenny didn’t issue any real reply to McClean, he is showing a clear appetite to set the record straight.

While it would have been easier to say he’s not interested, Kenny in both media appearances promised to respond at some stage.

That means something.

And we Irish football nerds will be waiting for it with excitement.

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