Stephen Kenny faces sack if Ireland don’t pick up points in September qualifiers

Despite loss in Athens FAI wants to avoid a managerial hunt during Women’s World Cup

Stephen Kenny will lead the Republic of Ireland into the European Championship qualifiers in September against France and the Netherlands.

Since Kenny unceremoniously replaced Mick McCarthy as manager in 2020, Ireland have plummeted from 34th in the world to 52nd on the current Fifa rankings, following the 2-1 loss to Greece in Athens earlier this month.

Had that result come after the 3-0 win over Gibraltar on June 19th, and not before, Tuesday’s gathering of the 12-person FAI board could have voted to cut ties with the 51-year-old. The association is believed to have included a break clause in the Irish manager’s two-year contract extension, which can be triggered if the team cannot qualify from Group B before Greece comes to Dublin on October 13th.

France are threatening to run away with the group, with four straight wins so far, but second place also qualifies automatically to the Euros in Germany next summer. Greece are on six points from three matches, having lost 1-0 in Paris three days after exposing Kenny’s flawed formation. Ireland and the Dutch are on three points.


The Irish management abandoned their 5-2-1-2 system at half-time in Greece as Kenny hauled off the Norwich City forward Adam Idah. The former Dundalk manager was forced into a similar change when Gibraltar, ranked 201st in the world, kept the Dublin game scoreless at the interval. This prompted Kenny to abandon two years of operating with three centre halves as Wolves defender Nathan Collins made way for Celtic winger Mikey Johnston.

On Tuesday, following presentations to the board by FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill and director of football Marc Canham, a decision was made to avoid a managerial hunt on the eve of the senior women’s first major tournament. Vera Pauw’s squad depart for the World Cup in Australia following the France friendly in Tallaght next Thursday.

If the men’s team fail to take at least two points from France at Parc des Princes on September 7th and the Netherlands in Dublin on September 10th, the association are expected to enact a change of management.

Ireland’s last qualifier is at the Johann Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on November 18th with a backdoor route to the Euros via a March playoff by no means certain until other groups conclude on November 21st.

Former Ireland midfielder and current England under-21 manager Lee Carsley has been widely reported as a potential successor.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent