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Brennan's brief Losing a home qualifier to Luxembourg was the lowest point in my 40 years of reporting on the Irish team

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Ireland manager Stephen Kenny (left) with Matt Doherty. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny (left) with Matt Doherty. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny (left) with Matt Doherty. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Stephen Kenny will unveil his Irish squad to face Portugal and Luxembourg later today, two matches next week that are the last pair of games in the manager’s long since ill-fated bid to get the Boys in Green to Qatar, and the World Cup Finals, in 12 months’ time.

In theory, there should be little to play for. In fact there is a huge amount, not least the Dubliner’s job.

Many people in Irish football seem to think that beating Azerbaijan and Qatar last month, the latter in a non-competitive match, should have been enough to guarantee Kenny another contract and a shot at taking the team to the more reachable target of Euro 2024 in Germany.

Yet for me, the acid test of Kenny’s tenure comes, not against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal this day week, but against Luxembourg on Sunday week.

The great Ronaldo and his pals could beat any team in world football on a given day. They are good enough to do that. Losing to them would be no disgrace and if we can play well in the match it would be another feather in the 50-year-old’s cap.

But losing a home qualifier to Luxembourg last March was the nadir in my almost 40 years of reporting on the Irish football team. We’ve had some dud results in that time, remember Liechtenstein anyone, but no matter how bad things are in the game on this island, Ireland ought to be able to beat Luxembourg on our ground.

Now Kenny has a measuring stick at his hand. Beat Luxembourg, on their patch, and he will be well entitled to say, “there, that’s how and where we have improved in the last eight months”.

However draw, and so you have won one point out of a possible six from Luxembourg, and well, the questions will start again. Lose to Luxembourg twice in the same calendar year and well there may not be even time for the question to be asked.

People may say who would do better than Kenny? It is the High Command of the FAI who have to answer that question and, given that they have been without a main commercial sponsor of the single most marketable entity in Irish sport for the last 17 months, you might not trust them to come up with the right answer.

But they will be watching the events on the pitch as nervously as anyone, second only to the boss himself perhaps.


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