New coach Anthony Barry begins to make his mark with Ireland

John Egan delighted to be learning from member of Chelsea backroom team

On a global scale Anthony Barry is considered the gold standard of football coaches. That is the instant reward for helping Chelsea win a second Champions League.

To Irish eyes, for the time being at least, Barry is the person who replaced Damien Duff, when one of the finest players to ever lace boots for the Republic of Ireland stepped away from a Broadway role previously filled by Roy and Robbie Keane.

"I know it's not ideal for the manager, but at the same time it's a chance to bring in a better coach than me," was Duff's incomplete explanation last February on return to punditry with RTÉ after he resigned as Stephen Kenny's assistant coach due to the manner a motivational video about Irish history, leading up to a 3-nil thumping by England at Wembley, was investigated by the FAI.

Duff’s shock decision confirmed an irreversible fracturing of Kenny’s original backroom staff at a critical juncture for the team.


Messy affair

“I will continue to dedicate myself to Irish football in a different capacity by coaching young players and improving young players, hopefully improving myself as well,” Duff added, “but all I’ve ever done since I wore the Irish shirt at 14, is dedicate myself to Irish football. I’ve never let my country down, and I’ll continue to work for Irish football”.

At least the messy affair allowed Duff to become an increasingly vital voice on national television, filling the Liam Brady slot of a star turn who played at the highest levels of the European club game, as much as Barry fills his void for Kenny.

And Duff was probably correct in saying Barry offered superior technical expertise on the training ground, although such humility ignores the 42-year-old’s priceless value when it comes to mentoring young Irish players.

"[Barry] didn't bring his medal, no," smiled John Egan, the first Ireland captain to boast six Celtic Crosses on the family mantelpiece. "I'd say he's too humble for that.

“But he is a top, top coach. This is obviously my first camp working with him and the ideas I’ve learned from him have been unreal in the week already.

“I can see why he is at a club like Chelsea and it’s fantastic that we have him here. It’s fantastic for every player here to learn from him.”

Kenny, as is his wont when asked a specific question about the 35-year-old’s impact in two international windows, mentioned his other assistants in the answer.

‘Positive impact’

"I think he's a very good coach," said Kenny. "Keith Andrews, likewise. He's been excellent since he came in. Dean Kiely has come in as well, had a good impact.

“We’ve got really good staff behind the scenes, lot of brilliant people really working hard. Great spirit. Anthony has had a positive impact. Likewise, Keith Andrews has had as well. As have all of the backroom team. I appreciate all their efforts.”

A potential issue with Barry is availability. Despite Kenny initially wanting his management team to avoid double jobbing, working under Thomas Tuchel is the priority, with the Liverpudlian understandably late into last week's Girona camp due to a small matter of outfoxing Manchester City in Porto.

“Without going into too much detail,” Egan added, “on the training ground there are ideas for different scenarios on the pitch. He’s top class”.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent