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disaster A disaster that could bring spell the end for Stephen Kenny as Luxembourg beat Ireland

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Gerson Rodrigues of Luxembourg  celebrates after scoring their team's first goal.  (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Gerson Rodrigues of Luxembourg celebrates after scoring their team's first goal. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Gerson Rodrigues of Luxembourg celebrates after scoring their team's first goal. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

STEPHEN Kenny’s grip on power as Ireland manager is hanging by a thread after a shameful performance at the Aviva Stadium ended in an humiliating defeat.

Gerson Rodrigues blasted the 85th minute shocker that may well have ended Ireland hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup and brought the curtain down on what has been a tortured tenure as Ireland boss for Kenny.

On a night when nothing less than a win would do, this was a performance of apocalyptic awful proportions, with the lack of attacking threat from the home side as alarming as it was depressing.

Kenny appeared to be confused by a question in his pre-match press conference suggesting his tenth match in charge of Ireland was a game he simply had to win, with that lack of clarity also in evidence in his players in a lacklustre first half display.

The bold selections of teenager Gavin Bazunu in goal and James Collins leading the line needed to be justified and the duo were at the centre of the two key moments of the opening 45 minutes.

In what was Ireland’s only menacing attack of an error-strewn display, Luton striker Collins (inset) so nearly cracked the World Cup qualifying door for Kenny after 18 minutes as he was denied from close range after a fine Ireland move concluded with a cross from Callum Robinson.

Collins must have believed he had scored when he connectedly cleanly front point-blank range, but Luxembourg keeper Anthony Moris spread himself well and managed to deny Ireland the lead they craved.

At the other end, Bazunu had been the busier of the two keepers and he was forced into a fine save as Gerson Rodrigues attempted a lob that was goal bound until the keeper Manchester City youngster found a way to keep it out.

With Ireland giving the ball away far too often and lacking any pace and energy in their attempts to break forward, Kenny’s back three formation was not providing his side with the platform they needed to hurt their lowly-ranked opponents.

Kenny’s desire to get his team playing with a little more fluidity is welcome in principle, yet the question over whether the tools he is working with can deliver on his ambition has prevailed throughout his strange year as Ireland boss.

Building momentum in empty stadiums when he has barely had any time to work with players on the training ground is a huge challenge, yet Ireland lacked identity as they struggled to string passes together and play with the authority Kenny demands.

His move to throw Robbie Brady into the fray at half-time was evidence that he needed more creativity as he replaced the injured Matt Doherty.

While there were some signs of life from Ireland in the opening minutes of the second half, the response Kenny would have been hoping for was not in evidence as Ireland dealt with half chances, with Alan Browne’s heading skidding wide after 55 minutes.

Stoke City may not have been impressed by the sight of James McClean being thrown on by Kenny as they had expressed reservations over whether their winger was fit to take part in this international break.

Yet Ireland and their manager had long since hit the panic button on a night when their inadequacies were being exposed by a Luxembourg side looking more threatening on their breaks forward.

Vincent Thill sets Irish hearts fluttering as he forced another fine save out of Bazunu as the visitors grew in confidence, with Shane Long another roll of the dice from Kenny as he threw more attacking talent onto the field in a team failing to produce any clear- cut chances.

Luxembourg had more shots on goal, more clear-cut chances and were the better team for long periods, with the questions Kenny has struggled to answer throughout his reign as Ireland boss now threatening his future in the role.

Despite all the hurdles that have been thrown before him in a year that has denied him the chance to get the backing of a home crowd and injury problems and Covid-19 issues affecting his squad, this simply wasn’t good enough on a night when push and shove collided in Dublin.

Kenny threw everything at it as he played all his cards from the bench, but the only conclusion that can be drawn after ten winless games in charge is that he is not getting the response he would want from the players at his disposal.

Then came the moment that may well have sealed his fate, as the threatening Rodrigues fired home an 85th minute goal that sent a shockwave through a deserted Aviva Stadium.

It was hard to deny the team that currently sit in 98th place in the FIFA rankings deserved their moment of glory, with the threat Rodriguez has posed all night finally reaping rewards for the visitors.

A draw would have been a woeful result for Ireland in this game, but a defeat was a disaster that Kenny cannot recover from.

It may seem harsh after just ten games in charge, but a damning verdict on a manager who has been battling with a credibility issue throughout his reign as Ireland boss may now have to be cast.

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