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final verdict Paul McGrath: It's not happening for Stephen Kenny as Ireland manager

No other Irish manager would be indulged with such results and no amount of talking about building for the future will wash away what is happening with our senior team right now.

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Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Oh Lord. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is just not happening for Stephen Kenny as Ireland manager.

Losing a home competitive match to Luxembourg and drawing with Azerbaijan is just not on.

No other Irish manager would be indulged with such results and no amount of talking about building for the future will wash away what is happening with our senior team right now.

Every match the Boys in Green lose or draw is more lost seeding points, making the task of qualifying for future Euros and World Cups all the harder.

I talked to friends about it during the week, after the team had played so well in defeat in Portugal.

“Let’s see now, can we take this forward and attack a team that comes to our house to defend?” That was my question.

The answer was that we could attack, but once again our forwards failed to score from open play.

As ever, it seems, it was a Duffy forehead that came to our rescue.

You won’t go too far in international football if your centre-halves are your best bet for a goal.

Kenny has been cruelly unlucky at times. He’s unlucky too, to be working in these times for a cash-strapped organisation that needs a winning international team to stabilise its finances.

Last week our Under-21 team, short several eligible players who were in Portugal with the senior side, went to Bosnia and won 2-0 in a qualifier.

How did they get that excellent result when our senior team is getting awful results?

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The buck stops at the top and after the disaster in the Aviva Stadium, Irish football is back at rock bottom.

There was no shortage of effort, no lack of passion, but chances to score were squandered.

That’s becoming a theme of Ireland’s football life now. Remember last autumn when we could not score a goal against anyone?

Who would want the job of Irish manager right now? Who would take the job right now?

I don’t have answers to either question and maybe Stephen will cling on because of that – and Duffy’s late goal.

Yet is that enough? Stephen has had a year and a half to put has stamp on the team.

A difficult year and a half, admittedly, with all that is going on in the world, but that is enough time to start getting results.

But in the second half all we did was what we used to do under Giovanni Trapattoni and Martin O’Neill. We put balls in the box and hoped for someone to get a header on it.

There was no passing the ball around here and take it from me that kind of ‘knock-it-in-football’ is easy to defend against.

You know what is coming and you know what the other team is trying to do, there’s no surprise, no trick, no variety of the play.

The reality is that Ireland have no ‘real’ game now until March of 2023, when the Euro 2024 qualifiers begin.

We’re out of this World Cup and there’s only a diet of the Nations League and friendlies to see us through next year.

What will the Irish team look like in March of 2023? How many of Saturday night’s players will be available?

Senior players may be gone. Young players now promising so much may have hit a brick wall in their club careers.

Will some of those Under-21s have come through? It’s all a mess and it is a long road back to the glory days of summer fiestas for the team.

We have to remember that missing out on next year’s World Cup means we’ve only qualified for two of the last ten Euros or World Cups.

We are not that good, but we are better than losing to Luxembourg and drawing with a very game, but limited, Azerbaijan outfit. And someone has to take the rap for that.

The sight of people leaving the match with ten minutes to go told its own story. They had given up. The team didn’t, but even their spirit couldn’t force the win in the end.

The first half was typical of Irish international football over the last two years – the lads played well and got caught by a sucker punch right at the end of it.

But this was not via two goals from one of the greatest players of all time, as was the case last week when Cristiano Ronaldo brought us to our knees.

This was Ireland being caught by a bit of bad defending. Nobody went to close down Emin Makhmudov when he had the ball 25 yards out and you just can’t do that in international football – you couldn’t do it in my day, and you can’t do it now.

Any international quality footballer will have a go when given the chance that Makhmudov was presented with.

It was only a momentary lapse, but that’s all it needs, just a split second of a switch-off and the damage is done.

Adam Idah was superb in the opening 45 minutes. He was the sort of centre-forward all of us centre-halves hate. He turned well with the ball, he was not afraid of having a shot or a header and he held up the play well too when that was needed.

But he can’t get into the Norwich team regularly. I mean, Norwich.

The lad is not at Liverpool and trying to get into the first team ahead of Mo Salah or Sadio Mane!

The second half was a mirror image of Tuesday night in the Algarve, except this time, Ireland were the team pressing, not hanging on.

Glorious headed chances went abegging, shots flashed wide, we did everything but score.

The fact that Azeris left the pitch dejected tells its own story, they believed they could win this!

Irish football needs a turbo boost from somewhere right now. Is there a Jack Charlton-type figure who could save us?

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