More Cork Players Equals Better Results for Stephen Kenny

After last Sunday’s win in Luxembourg, there’s no doubt that Republic of Ireland football manager Stephen Kenny will now hold on to his job. There has been a clear and obvious improvement in his team’s performances since September after a long string of catastrophic results since he took over from Mick McCarthy in 2020.

While few expected the team to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, the shocking performances against Luxembourg at home and Azerbaijan set a new low and finishing bottom of Group A looked a real possibility. Kenny thought long and hard about what he could do to arrest the country’s frightening descent towards the terrifying darkness of the lower FIFA world rankings.

If he didn’t make drastic changes, Ireland would continue sliding down the ladder to a place inhabited by footballing nations so small that their central defenders also play in the band they send to the Eurovision every year. But how did Ireland sink to these depths in the first place?

Well, take one look at the match day squad for the first qualifier and scandalously, Kenny had just one Corkman on it. Yet, just 17 minutes into the opening game in Belgrade, Blackrock’s Alan Browne proved his worth by heading home an absolute beauty to put the Boys in Green one nil up.  

Disgracefully, despite being a proven goal getter, Browne was replaced in the second half. Ireland went on to lose yet Kenny didn’t make the connection.

For the next few matches Ireland’s performances went from bad to worse to pathetic and still, Kenny persisted with just one Corkman. Against Portugal away he employed his usual anti-Cork bias and the chickens came home to roost again.

At the point where it looked Ireland might actually nick a valuable 1-1 away draw and give Kenny some credibility, he made another horrific tactical error that would prove fatal – he withdrew Douglas man Adam Idah for the final few minutes of the game. Leaving the team effectively Corkless, the bottle would sink within seconds.    

Without any Leeside leverage on the field, Ronaldo was able to pretty much waltz the ball into the net to grab that infamous injury time winner. Another cataclysmic fail by the Irish management.  

Something finally clicked with them after that game. At long last it dawned on Kenny what his team was missing and the friendly in September against Qatar was a turning point as he belatedly topped up his squad with Cork men.

Swallowing his pride along with his morning bowl of coddle (a traditional Dublin meal made of fatberg juice from Dublin Bay), the former Dundalk bainisteoir chose three young Rebels to start the game: Liverpool goalie and Blackrock bullwark Caoimhín Kelleher, Bandon battler Conor Hourihane and Nemo Ranger’s Chiedozie Ogbene (with Douglas dynamo Adam Idah on the bench just in case the team needed even more Rebel firepower).

With a Corkonian starting in all three areas of the field and a fourth ready for action on the bench, the result was inevitable: Ireland cruised to victory by four goals with the Corkmen running the show from start to finish.

Next the squad flew to Azerbaijan to try to avenge the humiliating 1-1 draw in Dublin a few weeks earlier. Learning from his previous mistakes in not having enough Leesiders on the squad, Kenny tripled his Rebel contingent and guess what? Low and behold, the Boys in Green won by three goals including a screamer from the Nemo-Nigerian noggin of Chiedozie Óg Bene.

C’mere sham, if you’re not seeing a glaring pattern here you’d want to get your auld ‘data centre’ checked out next time you’re at the GP. You don’t have to be one of the super-nerds in the Central Statistic Office in Mahon to interpret the facts and figures we’ve presented here, feen – it’s pure obvious: the more Cork players Kenny has on his squad and on the field the better the results.

As if we needed it, last Sunday night’s 3-0 victory over Luxembourg piled on more proof, with Kenny using four Corkonians over the 90 minutes and having a fifth, Kelleher, on the bench.

Chiedozie’s wonderous goal typified what the Douglas man brings to the party – hassling a defender to within an inch of his life to win the ball back, laying off a fantastic pass and then sprinting towards goal to slot home Ireland’s second. Irish fans went ballistic.

Looking back now, it’s a tragedy bordering on a crime, that Kenny didn’t cop this clear pattern until it was too late to make an assault on qualification for the World Cup.

When it starts this time next year, there’ll be the usual shoulder-shrugging about the Republic of Ireland’s missing out on yet another the tournament. Let the team’s absence from Qatar next November be a stark reminder to Kenny and all the blazers in the FAI about the dangers of ‘uncorking’ this or any other Irish team.