Trying to move away from a style of play that some long ago derided as unattractive and priceless has made things even more unsightly for the Republic of Ireland.
While pragmatism would one day mask their shortcomings, Stephen Kenny’s idealism has only served to bring them to light.
How long can Kenny and his paymasters go on with this seemingly futile attempt to turn water into wine? The reality is that they get drunk while doing so.
Gerson Rodrigues’ strike condemned the Republic of Ireland to one of their worst losses ever
Stephen Kenny has not won any of his 10 games since taking over from Mick McCarthy
It’s not like they play well and don’t get results, as that would afford Kenny patience if there was evidence of an aesthetic improvement.
Instead, they’ve found a new way to play poorly, with an even worse outcome than before.
There is currently a clash of football cultures in Ireland – those who are in favor of a possession-based revolution under Kenny, versus those who are imbued with the efficiency of past glory.
It is the latter who win a civil war that has become as ugly as football.
They claim that Ireland’s greatest strength has always been in exceeding the sum of their parts, all the way back to Jack Charlton some 30 years ago, and the amalgamation of a spirit and directness that would disturb even the most powerful of adversaries. England and Italy can vouch for this.
But on Saturday night, in the 10th winless game of Kenny’s inglorious reign, Ireland lost 1-0 to Luxembourg at home, the country ranked 98th in world football.
It is the worst result in the country’s recent history. Not because it was a shock. On the contrary, it might be their worst ever as it was no surprise, and so it goes to show how far they’ve fallen.
The winner of Gerson Rodrigues was just smash and grab by the nature of coming five minutes before time, because it wasn’t undeserved. It means hopes for Ireland’s 2022 World Cup are all but over, after two games and zero points.
Kenny vowed to change outsiders’ attitudes to Ireland when he took charge last year. Well, he achieved that. Captain Seamus Coleman repeatedly used the word “shameful” in the aftermath of this loss, and that is the inescapable truth of where Ireland is now – the butt of the jokes.
Seamus Coleman admitted that the defeat to the 98th squad in the world was ‘shameful’
There were some cruel jibes over the weekend, the suggestion should be that Ireland should pre-qualify for tournament qualifiers with the likes of San Marino and Liechtenstein. The latter beat Luxembourg last year.
Is that the company Ireland is now holding? Are they really one of the minnows?
When you consider that they’ve won three competitive matches since October 2017 – two wins over Gibraltar and one against Georgia – it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.
Of course, it’s not all that Kenny does. In fact, far from it. Yes, reversing the decline has simply accelerated it, but Ireland’s troubles predate his arrival.
Essentially it comes back to the production of players. Ireland’s XI used to be populated by top English champions such as Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, David O’Leary, Denis Irwin and Roy Keane. More recently John O’Shea and Damien Duff.
Against Luxembourg, they started with Rochdale’s goalkeeper and Luton’s striker. Kenny has inherited a group that lacks quality and confidence, due to the rot that started long ago.
James Collins couldn’t be lucky after failing to give Ireland the lead in the first period
It was in November 2017, under Martin O’Neill, that they lost 5-1 to Denmark in a World Cup play-off, and so began the unraveling of the last Irish team to embody the tradition of finding a way to get the job. done.
Since then, they’ve found several ways not to score – just 11 in 21 competitive matches.
O’Neill played at half time and relied on pace, but that quickly became predictable and pedestrian. Mick McCarthy came in and emphasized crosses – and had had enough. And so to Kenny, whose team likes to have the ball, but does almost nothing with it.
Where to from here? Kenny stays, for starters. The FAI has announced this.
There will certainly be noises about looking ahead to Euro 2024, but that ignores the fact that Kenny’s supporters asked him to be judged on this campaign amid the struggles of his early games.
How long can you keep kicking a glance at the road before realizing it will never end up between the posts?
Ireland’s situation is a long way from when they had John O’Shea and Damien Duff
Ireland has always known what they are and what they are not. They have accepted certain limitations and thereby pushed the boundaries of the possibilities.
Right now, in an effort to be more comprehensive under Kenny, those options have narrowed.
Hell, even winning a soccer game seems beyond them.