After an interview with Ireland manager Stephen Kenny in the back garden of a large house on Haddington Road, converted into 18 single rooms for the homeless, only Fr Peter McVerry remained, deep in conversation on his mobile phone.
“Six children?” Fr McVerry asked aloud. “Okay, six,” he confirmed as the first November chill cut through Dublin city.
“I went to see Peter talk in Buncrana,” said Kenny of the Jesuit priest who created the charity that primarily focuses on young people with complex needs. “My wife Siobhán and I went along and spent a bit of time with him up there. He talked us through his whole strategy and plan.
“Just a very, very humble guy who has been there since [the Peter McVerry Trust] started 42 years ago. The thing is they cut through and get straight to the point. They’ve just built 500, units they call them, but 500 homes.
“The Trust does terrific work, they move very quickly and gets things done. It’s an amazing foundation and you couldn’t really not support it.
“They do a lot of positive stuff all the time in relation to facets of rebuilding people’s lives,” added Kenny at the launch of a Christmas fundraising appeal. “It’s not an issue turning up, it’s a privilege.”
Given that Darragh O’Brien, the Minister for Housing, had just breezed through the new residence beside Beggars Bush, Fr McVerry questioned whether the Government’s pledge to provide 1,200 “housing first” tenancies over the next five years for people with a history of rough sleeping or long-term use of emergency accommodation was “aspirational or achievable”.
On the far less important football front, Kenny provided updates on Jamie McGrath's hip injury, Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher's illness and Troy Parrott. All three are "okay" ahead of Portugal's vital World Cup qualifier in Dublin on Thursday week before Ireland's final Group A match in Luxembourg on November 14th.
Kenny’s team are out of the reckoning, almost since defeat to Luxembourg in an empty Aviva stadium last March, so both teams are battling for a third place finish as Portugal versus Serbia in Lisbon, on the same night, will decide which nation gains automatic qualification for Qatar 2022. Unless, that is, Ireland spoil Portugal’s campaign at a sold-out Aviva.
Robbie Brady’s lack of game time since signing for Bournemouth means that a recall to the international ranks has come too soon for the 29-year-old.
“Robbie is getting himself up to speed,” said Kenny. “It’s not realistic for him to be involved in this camp, he hasn’t really featured or played since last season.
“There’s no reason Robbie can’t get regular football and be a big part of our future, as he’s a talented player who can play in a number of positions.
“He’s gone from a situation where he was probably number one on the team sheet and maybe Ireland’s best player to a situation where he was out of contract and clubless. That can appear dramatic on the face of it, but he would have been a good signing for any club and will be a good signing for Bournemouth.”
Despite being branded the 'Irish Pirlo' after orchestrating victories over Azerbaijan and Qatar, Jeff Hendrick's inability to play a single minute for Newcastle United in the past month is not expected to deny him selection in the Irish midfield alongside Josh Cullen.
“Jeff was terrific really in the last couple of games. To be honest, since he came back at the start of this season, he has rediscovered his form so I do feel probably him not playing for Newcastle is based on his form from last season carrying over, and not getting an opportunity.
“He did lose his form when he went there initially. That was the case but he addressed that and got himself right and for us.
“He is probably one of the few players who, you know everyone needs match fitness and you need to be playing matches and so forth, but endurance is not an issue for him. He seems to be going 90 minutes even when he hasn’t been playing. He is very conscious of his diet, how he trains, and the application to his training is really excellent. That’s what helps him in the last camp he was able to play two 90 minutes comfortably. That is credit to him.”