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Brennan's Brief Kenny must patch up a team without star players that can somehow get a point in the Balkans

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James McClean is out of tonight's clash

James McClean is out of tonight's clash

James McClean is out of tonight's clash

Napoleon wanted his generals to be lucky above everything else. The FAI interview panel, looking for a new Irish football manager, obviously never asked Stephen Kenny how he fared on the odd Saturday night with the Lotto, or with an occasional punt on a horse.

For the only luck Kenny has had since taking over as Irish football supremo is bad luck and it continues tonight in Belgrade when the Boys in Green begin their bid to reach next year’s World Cup Finals with a tough away tie against Serbia.

Players like Darren Randolph, John Egan and James McCarthy would all have started this evening’s match if fit. But they are not and Kenny must patch up a team without them and others that can somehow get a point in the Balkans and prevent us starting a campaign with a defeat.

For sure, the team is in transition. As the manager noted himself yesterday, lads in the squad like teenagers Gavin Bazunu and Troy Parrott were born in the same year that Robbie Keane scored that famous goal against Germany deep into injury time on the last occasion the Green was worn at a World Cup.

On the other side of the coin, players out in Belgrade tonight, such as James McClean, Ciaran Clark and the skipper Seamus Coleman, are all 31 years of age. Father Time means they are unlikely to be part of Ireland’s bid to get to the 2026 World Cup in North America. This is it for their dream of going to the greatest of all football tournaments.

It was always Kenny’s dream to lead the national team. Yet, all his bad luck aside, a lifetime in football means that Kenny knows that the professional game is a results driven business.

If things go badly wrong tonight, and they could against a Serbian side smarting from failing to qualify for Euro 2020, Ireland’s game on Saturday against Luxembourg is our last competitive match until September.

That’s plenty of time for the FAI to make a move and get in a bigger-name manager who might put bums on seats at the Aviva, when that is surely allowed in the Autumn.

The FAI’s battered finances need the supporters to get behind the team in person when they can – a team that is already in trouble in Group A of the World Cup qualifiers and finding it hard to score goals is not likely to fire the Irish sporting imagination.

Ireland’s horses and horsemen, and one remarkable woman, did us proud at Cheltenham last week. Our rugby team, after starting slowly, finished the Six Nations in a blaze of glory. The last thing we want now, as the nights of lockdown endure, is for a hastily-built football team to bore everyone to tears tonight. Worse still, for them to get hockeyed.

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