New Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, left, his assistant Keith Andrews, and Jim Crawford, who has stepped in as manager of the Under 21 squad, were pictured on the Under 21 training session last September. INPHO/OISIN KENIRY
By Sean Creedon
So Mick McCarthy and his assistant Terry Connor are gone, with a reported pay-off thanks to former FAI CEO John Delaney and possibly more money to come if Stephen Kenny can win the two play-off games and qualify for the Euro finals. Interim FAI CEO Gary Owens said: ‘‘We would honor Mick’s contract. If we qualify for the Euros we won’t really have a financial problem because it actually is quite lucrative for us to qualify and I would be happy to pay all the bonuses that people deserve if we get there.’’
So everybody seems to be happy that the FAI acted quickly last week when UEFA decided to postpone the play-offs, except for Robbie Keane. Our record goal scorer, who was part of McCarthy’s backroom team, has not been included in Kenny’s backroom set up. Kenny has instead called up Keane’s former colleague Damien Duff. We haven’t heard anything from Robbie so far, but while McCarthy and Connor got two-year contracts, Robbie got a four-year contract from Delaney. However, Keane’s wife Claudine has defended him on Twitter, asking the FAI to show her husband some respect. Gary Owens admitted there were in talks with Robbie and his agent and that the man who scored 68 goals for Ireland, might still have a role to play. Keane is currently assistant manager at English Championship club Middlesbrough and is reported to be on wages of €250,000 a year with the FAI. Keith Andrews and Duff will be part of Kenny’s backroom team and Duff is expected to retain his role with Glasgow Celtic where he is first team coach, but that is yet to be confirmed.
Jim Crawford, who worked as a coach with Kenny when he was under 21manager, now steps up to manage the under 21s, where he will be assisted by former Irish international John O’Shea.
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Kenny said: ‘‘I have the height of respect for Robbie Keane and I have always got on fine with him. It was just that I wanted my own backroom team, simple as that. Keith Andrews is my assistant. We have worked together for the last 15 months with the under 21s and we have got a tremendous rapport and get on very well.’’
So plenty international experience around the national teams, except for the manager himself, who only played League of Ireland football. However, Stephen is an excellent manager and I have no doubt all the players and backroom staff will respect him. Kenny says he expects the play-off semifinal against Slovakia to be played in October. Our first game in the Nations League is against Bulgaria on Sept. 3, but that could change. Kenny said: ‘‘If Slovakia is the first game I will make sure the team is ready, indications are it is possibly due to be October with the final in November, if that’s the case, brilliant, we will have a few games to formulate our ideas and get ready for that game.’’ With Nations Cup, Euro play-offs and friendlies Kenny could have nine games between early September and the end of November.