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straight talk Brian Kerr insists too much emphasis on Ireland's style of play under Stephen Kenny

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Ambassadors Brian Kerr and Michael Darragh MacAuley with, from left, Mehari Kahasay, Michelle Kane, Recreation worker, Dublin City Council, Mariama Kamari and Tareq Altourk at the launch of the Football for Unity Festival which will take place at venues across the north east inner city of Dublin next week

Ambassadors Brian Kerr and Michael Darragh MacAuley with, from left, Mehari Kahasay, Michelle Kane, Recreation worker, Dublin City Council, Mariama Kamari and Tareq Altourk at the launch of the Football for Unity Festival which will take place at venues across the north east inner city of Dublin next week

Ambassadors Brian Kerr and Michael Darragh MacAuley with, from left, Mehari Kahasay, Michelle Kane, Recreation worker, Dublin City Council, Mariama Kamari and Tareq Altourk at the launch of the Football for Unity Festival which will take place at venues across the north east inner city of Dublin next week

For a man renowned for nurturing young gems, especially to Ireland’s senior team, it would seem logical for Brian Kerr to embrace Stephen Kenny’s generational overhaul.

Yet not so and, as a mark of the man’s meticulousness now seen in Virgin Media’s studio, his argument is laden with supporting evidence.

Kerr’s only hope of an upturn is from Kenny learning belatedly on the job, although he’s unsure whether the more pragmatic approach evident in Tuesday’s stalemate against Hungary was initiated by the coach or the players themselves.

What Kerr is more certain of is Ireland’s World Cup plight. Successive defeats to Serbia and Luxembourg in March’s opening qualifiers leaves scant margin of error. That’s an ominous sign when next up are the European champions Portugal in their backyard and a Serbian side rejuvenated under Dragan Stojković.

“In my view, we are out of the running for the World Cup already,” he reasoned about the seven-point lead enjoyed by the top two. “It is going to take something very dramatic, like beating both Portugal and Serbia in September, or Luxembourg taking points off those teams.

“We have got to look at it now, not just talk about aspirational stuff for the future. Irish people want to be inspired by the international team now. They want to be in the running.

“We put out a team against Serbia with basically young players right down the spine of the team. We are still in a situation where we are almost experimenting.

“I love seeing younger players coming in. I’ve always been a fan of young players and I admire what Stephen has done at club level, but I think there has been an over-emphasis on the style of play in the early stages and the promotion of young players who haven’t really done a lot in the club game or the international game.”

On the back of 11 winless games, Ireland finally recorded a victory under the new manager last Thursday.

It was a big night for Kenny and also for Troy Parrott, who notched a brace in the 4-1 win, but the choice of opposition was just one reason why Kerr isn’t convinced the end-of-season gathering bodes well for the competitive fare resuming in the autumn.

“Who came up with the great idea to play Andorra?” he asked with disdain about the nation sitting 158th in the FIFA rankings.

“It wasn’t anywhere near where they were training in Spain and it took them so long to get there on the bus to play on an all-weather pitch. I just can’t understand that.

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“And why travel to one of the hottest places in Europe to have a camp where you’re limited by the conditions? Some of that stuff just baffles me. It goes along with the lack of experience of people surrounding the international team.

“The whole Parrott thing was overdone. He got a couple of goals but you’re measuring him against a team so far down the rankings that it doesn’t hold great weight.

“Hungary were better opposition, similar to us in the rankings, but they finished fourth in their European qualifiers after losing games.

“My overall impression, bar the first eight minutes when we tried to play it out from the back and got caught out, was that the approach wasn’t substantially different to any Ireland team of the past.

“Once Hungary closed us down, there was a much better mix to us. It’s not all about possession or dominating in every area.”

Kerr’s much-awaited return to the FAI has yet to take flight but he’s at least happy to see his former goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner selected as a new independent director.

“The FAI badly needed someone with real leadership qualities around the place so I’m delighted Packie is back,” he said.

“With the new FAI board, I understand they needed people with other skills on the board, but it’s a football association.

“It had to include people who know about the game and understand the development of it.

“I don’t think Packie would have said, ‘Oh yeah, I think we should play Andorra on an all-weather pitch in Andorra in June’, nor advised facing England last November before two competitive games.”


Brian Kerr officially launched the Football for Unity Festival in conjunction with Sport Against Racism Ireland – taking place in Dublin from Monday to Friday of next week

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