Brian Kerr: ‘We are out of the running for the World Cup already’

Former Ireland boss on ‘FAI part three’, Kenny’s tactics and ‘street football’ against racism

Former Republic of Ireland and St Patrick’s Athletic manager Brian Kerr at the launch of the Football for Unity festival which will take place in Dublin’s northeast inner city from June 14th to July 16th. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Former Republic of Ireland and St Patrick’s Athletic manager Brian Kerr at the launch of the Football for Unity festival which will take place in Dublin’s northeast inner city from June 14th to July 16th. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

 

The street footballer is never far from Brian Kerr’s mind.

Speaking at Sport Against Racism Ireland’s launch of the Football for Unity festival, Kerr reimagined a bygone era around Gloucester Diamond’s natural amphitheatre in Dublin’s north inner city.

He also took aim at “the FAI part three” for how it is currently running the professional game. The former Republic of Ireland manager even delivered mild yet pointed criticism of Stephen Kenny’s utopian idea that Irish players could dominate possession in a modern international setting.

“At the beginning,” said Kerr, “Stephen talked a lot about how he wanted to play. He wanted to dominate the ball in all areas of the pitch and he wanted us to play it out from the back, and he wanted us to be composed, and play through the thirds.

“That is fine but the likes of Finland, Bulgaria, Wales all sat off and let us try to do that build-up from the back and then they would set traps for us in the middle of the pitch.”

Another example was the early seconds in Budapest last Tuesday when Conor Hourihane and John Egan were both caught in possession perilously close to Gavin Bazunu’s goal.

“I am sure the whole process – the 13 matches – has helped them,” Kerr continued. “It has allowed Stephen to gain the experience and to become a bit more rational, I would say, and pragmatic when it comes to the tests of international football.

“It is not easy to win these games. You are not going to be able to control the ball against other international teams. I think that realisation has come along over time with the way the results have gone.

“In my view we are out of the running for the World Cup already,” Kerr continued. “It is going to take something very dramatic to turn that around. We are going to have to beat both Portugal and Serbia in September, unless Luxembourg continue to take points off these teams as they did to us in Dublin.”

FAI board

When it was suggested that the appointment of Packie Bonner, as one of six independent directors on the FAI board, might change how the footballing side of the house is organised, Kerr stated: “I think they have made some huge mistakes over the last year-and-a-half as changes were taking place.

“We are on FAI part three, I think, since the previous era. There has been a lot of time and energy spent on good governance and changing the board and committee structure.

“From the outset I thought the Horan report got it wrong. The combination of people who were putting that together was wrong. There was nobody with any expertise in football.

“The FAI badly needs someone with real leadership qualities around the place. I’m delighted to hear Packie is now part of the board.

“I understand they needed people with other skills on the board, but it’s the Football Association of Ireland – it has to include people who know about football, not just the administration of the game.”

Huge crowds would regularly turn out to watch the seven-a-side tournaments at the Gloucester Diamond with residents watching from the windows. Photograph: North Inner City Folklore Project
Huge crowds would regularly turn out to watch the seven-a-side tournaments at the Gloucester Diamond with residents watching from the windows. Photograph: North Inner City Folklore Project

Kerr’s involvement in the festival continues his long-standing relationship with Sport Against Racism Ireland and its efforts at social inclusion for newcomers to Ireland.

“We’ve got a changing country,” he added. “People from countries far and wide have now become Irish citizens.

‘Booing’

“But it has also brought its problems. We see it in football, we saw it in Budapest the other night, the attitude towards the black players before the match, the booing before the game. We see it at English games.

“It’s disgraceful. It’s mind-boggling for so many of us, why people have those attitudes.

“We wanted to have a festival of street football that would have incorporated bringing in a very diverse group of people to play in the city, so we came up with the idea of reinventing the old Gloucester Diamond competition, which used to take place in the inner city going back to the 1950s .

“That was a very popular competition. The top League of Ireland players around the city would have come and played in it.

“We are looking at recreating that idea in the inner city where there obviously have been some difficulties with racism and racist incidents over the last year.

“Given the positioning of some of the pitches, you might have people looking out of their windows and balconies, similar to the Gloucester Diamond years ago, where people were looking out from high up in the old tenement buildings.

“It should provide an interesting backdrop to the matches. Not quite the backdrop Ireland had playing in Andorra, but something similar, just without the Pyrenees.”

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