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Brennan's brief Kenny may be wondering if he's made a mistake in rush to become Ireland boss

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Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has endured a difficult start to his reign as manager

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has endured a difficult start to his reign as manager

SPORTSFILE

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has endured a difficult start to his reign as manager

Stephen Kenny surely woke up in his hotel room in Helsinki this morning and thought ‘What have I done’?

Because of the unusual way he was offered the throne of Irish football manager, and then acceded to it, the 46-year-old Dubliner could have sat back last summer and allowed Mick McCarthy to carry as Irish senior boss while quietly shaping the current Under 21 crop - a rich bunch of talented young lads, many of whom have already won senior caps.

The U21s may have lost in Italy yesterday, but they are still in a very strong position to secure their place at the Euro Finals in Hungary and Slovenia next year.

In contrast, Kenny’s senior team has blown their chance. The failure to beat an under-strength Slovakia, while Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah sat in a nearby hotel room, supposedly a coronavirus risk, will haunt Kenny until the day he finally leads Ireland to a major championship.

For now, the Irish manager must scrap for every Nations League point he can get - with an Irish team that might go places in the fullness of time, but which could have a while to wait before the glory days return.

Roy Keane has largely avoided making any comment about Irish football since he was shooed out as Assistant Manager in November 2018. But he hit the nail on the head the other day when saying ‘we don’t have the quality right now’.

Matt Doherty is the first Irish player to sign for the Premier League's ‘Big Six’ in England for a number of years. Irish players like Robbie Brady and Jack Byrne were with other top clubs in their time, but it just didn’t happen for them at Manchester United and City respectively.

They are solid professionals, earning a good wage and playing well, but, unfortunately, not with Champions League clubs. And it is players from Champions League clubs you come up against, and have to beat, when it comes to international football.

Even Slovakia last week, with a full team, would have had two players from Inter Milan, one from Lazio, and another, Marek Hamsik, who was a Napoli superstar until last season.

Take Wales last Sunday before the dull scoreless draw at the Aviva. Their list of players submitted to the FAI for the game included three from Liverpool, one from each of the Manchester clubs, a Spurs player, a Juventus star, an FC Schalke player - and that was without the injured Gareth Bale.

Ireland could match that with Doherty – and that was it.

If there are not to be more nights like last Thursday for Irish football, we need to see this gifted crop of youngsters mature, get game time, and then earn transfers to the biggest clubs. Only when that happens will Stephen Kenny be able to look back and say “I did the right thing.”

Without that happening, the future of Irish football, in the short and medium term, is grim indeed.

Online Editors