Stephen Kenny as confused as everybody else by Ireland performance

Ireland boss says side were convincing winners despite conceding twice in quick succession to Armenia

Stephen Kenny seemed as baffled as the rest of us afterwards. He was equal parts delighted with most of what he saw and horrified with the level of carelessness that almost saw the night ruined.

“I’m not sure exactly how to feel,” he said. “I know we played very well in the game. I’m very pleased with how we played. But we absolutely shot ourselves in the foot for a five minute period. Two goals in two minutes was careless. We could have been four up at that stage, in the 75th minute.

“We had centre-backs overlapping and centre-backs committing to the attack. We obviously got caught on the break when we were winning 2-0 and then we got punished for a mistake a minute later. The fact that we came back and won 3-2 was important. We were much the better team, we could have won by a few goals. But there’s lessons there for us for sure.

“I think the thing is they know themselves. We know that we were so much in the ascendency that we went for the third, fourth and fifth goal, which is fine. But not to the extent that we lose the structure of our back three in the way that we did.


“But there were loads of great things. Nathan Collins and Dara O’Shea coming in again. For the vast majority of the match we did really well. We know that at 2-0 up we don’t have to go chasing the third and fourth. We need to keep our structure.

“But overall, there were a lot of good things. Michael Obafemi’s goal was brilliant, John Egan scored for the second game in a row. Overall I think the team did outstanding tonight apart from that ridiculous 10-minute period with two goals in a minute. But we’ll learn from that.”

The curious feeling at the end was clear even in the usually ebullient form of Michael Obafemi. The night’s best player ran himself to cramp in the end and his goal earned him the Man of the Match award. But even he had the air taken out of him by it all.

“I think we just got a bit sloppy,” was his explanation for how Armenia were allowed back into the game. “I feel we got a bit too comfortable. But we’ve got the win thanks to Robbie so we’re just glad to maintain our position in League B.

“We thoroughly deserved it. We were convincing winners.”

That opinion remains wide open to debate.

Budget night and the Football Association of Ireland managed to avoid a financial collapse of epic proportions. Relegation to the Nations League third-tier almost became an incomprehensible possibility as Eduard Spertsyan returned to haunt Ireland.

It was Spertsyan, the Russian-born, Russian-based midfielder, who scored a famous winner to beat Ireland in Yerevan last June, and on a bizarre finish in Dublin the 22-year-old accepted Conor Hourihane’s sloppy ball to curl the equaliser with 17 minutes remaining.

“Listen, Conor is a terrific passer of the ball, that is his strength, he was first to hold his hands up, he is just a great professional.”

Ireland’s Premier League goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu is not without blame as Spertsyan’s effort slipped under his torso.

“It doesn’t worry me at all,” said Ireland manager Stephen Kenny of the latest long range concession. “I think we were 2-0 up and went chasing the third goal when we didn’t need to. We had centre backs overlapping and we were 2-0 up in a game that we needed to win.

“We lost a bit of structure, you must maintain your structure of your back three, and some protection or that as well when you are winning 2-nil. We weren’t losing 2-nil. We were losing 2-nil. We went chasing a third goal and got punished, and we came back and got the winner.

“So overall it is a really good performance, with a few minutes of madness and is something we can learn from in terms of taking responsibility of not being exposed when you are winning like that.

“It was a good performance,” Kenny insisted. “We need to get better at keeping a clean sheet.”

The Irish management are continuing to consider recruiting a coach to replace John Eustace, who replaced Anthony Barry, who replaced Damien Duff as the lead trainer reporting into Kenny and assistant manager Keith Andrews.

“We might need an extra coach because that is what we need with the dynamics of camps and the number of sessions and so forth. We will make that decision in due course.”

The next outing is a friendly against Norway and Erling Haaland in November.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent