Stephen Kenny has filled the vacancy created when Damien Duff departed his coaching staff last month by recruiting 34-year-old Chelsea coach Anthony Barry.
Kenny says that he has been aware of Barry, who was brought to Stamford Bridge by Frank Lampard last summer after stints with Accrington Stanley and Wigan, “for a few years now. He is an innovative coach with an energetic style,” says the Ireland manager.
Barry has risen quickly in the English game since retiring as a lower-division player a few years back, and made enough of an impression in his first months at the London club to retain a role when Thomas Tuchel was appointed.
Duff departed the Ireland set-up in early January and is understood to have been unhappy with the investigation mounted by the FAI into the video shown by Kenny to his players in advance of the game at Wembley back in November, although there are said to have been other factors that contributed to his decision to go.
Speaking on Friday, FAI CEO Jonathan Hill said he had spoken to Duff about his departure and that the Dubliner had identified “a whole range of issues” which had contributed to his decision to step away.
“Obviously, I’ll keep them private to the conversation I had with Damien,” said Hill, “but it’s clear he had historical issues with the association, and the running of the association. He wants what’s best for Irish football and I think he felt that was the right thing at the time, the right decision for him to take.”
The “motivational” video and the fallout from it certainly seem to have been in the mix there somewhere, and Hill added weight to the notion that the entire episode had been blown badly out of proportion when he claimed to have found nothing at all offensive in its content.
Rather, he suggests, the investigation antagonised a number of people, some of whom were already agitated by the restrictions imposed on the players, many of them coronavirus- related, during the three international windows last autumn.
“When we became aware, initially from a newspaper in the UK and then an Irish newspaper, of what they believed the story was, I feel comfortable that it was the right thing for us do, for the FAI, to establish the facts.
“That is all that we did. The reason why we did that was because we wanted to know before we took it to the board and said: ‘Look, these are the facts of the matter and this is what should happen’.
“In reality that took us 48 hours to do. Gary Owens [interim CEO] talked to people. I was then able to watch the video myself. I watched it and when I sat in front of the board, obviously I was the only English person on that call, I could say that on a personal basis I was not offended by the video at all.
“Given all of the conversation we had, the board listened, debated and said there was no case to answer and we move on. And genuinely I think we must move on from it now. Like Covid, you learn from these issues and maybe there were things around the whole issue that taught Stephen and his team issues that hadn’t been articulated in relation to the physicality of being in a hotel in a Covid bubble. It’s difficult. We’re not experiencing what the guys are doing. So learn and move on.”
Asked if he has cautioned Kenny against any repeat of the incident, he says not.
“I would not, and do not, seek to interject into how he prepares his team. Motivation is clearly a significant part of any coach’s armoury so I’m sure Stephen will seek to motivate his players in the way he feels best.”