Stephen Kenny: ‘I felt for a while that Callum could be very important for us’

Striker’s five goals in two games could keep him in the job right up the 2024 Euros

Stephen Kenny was first to arrive, taking to the Aviva surface all by his lonesome at 5.54pm, where he seemed to be muttering and laughing with the ghosts of managers past, until realising the peril of his situation.

The soon to be 50-year-old showed a clean pair of heels to avoid being soaked by the sprinkler system. Conspiracy theorists might have seen Kenny's invisible enemies launching another petty attack on the man Didi Hamann refused to endorse pre-match.

The German, who sounds like a Liverpudlian, was at it again on RTÉ, refusing to admit to tone deaf commentary from the weekend when doubling down on criticism, despite an impressive 3-0 win in Baku, mainly because he did not like Kenny stating that Ireland have only lost one from seven games, and in agonising circumstances, to Portugal in Faro last month.

Hamann's stance was so devoid of context that his old friend, Irish football's contrarian-in-chief Eamon Dunphy, branded it as "drivel" on The Stand podcast.

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“We are evolving as a team,” said Kenny after this 4-0 trashing of Qatar. “We needed to get the win in Azerbaijan, we know that.”

A goalscorer has emerged from West Bromwich Albion and the English underage ranks that changes everything for Irish football.

“I felt for a while that Callum could be very important for us, but he missed a lot of games, but I couldn’t have predicted he would get fives goals in two games, that is an incredible return.

“He is going to be very important to us over in the years ahead.

"Jeff Hendrick was absolutely outstanding for us as well. That's one of the best games I have ever seen him play."

Robinson has not spoken to the written media since last week’s vaccination line of enquiry led to a flood of debate around professional soccer players’ right to remain unvaccinated and not explain why (just as NBA megastar Kyrie Irving was effectively cut by the Brooklyn Nets for taking such a stance.)

In the meantime, Robinson bagged five goals in two stunning turns for his country, all but guaranteeing that Kenny will be manager all the way up to the 2024 Euros in Germany.

“It’s been a crazy week for me,” said Robinson, “but I’m happy to finish off with a few goals and nice to win with a few goals in front of all the fans.

“It was a great night. My team-mates have been there for me all week with what went on in the press and stuff. We stick together and I’d do the same.

“You can see how I was playing, nothing was in my head and I just wanted to get the results. I was buzzing to get two the other night and had chances to get a hat-trick. So obviously I was optimistic to get a hat-trick tonight and I got that [match] ball.”

Robinson is the first Ireland player to bag a hat-trick since Robbie Keane against Gibraltar in 2014 and only 13th hat-trick in the 100 year history of the national team. Keane has three of them, Don Givens and John Aldridge have two each. Serious company.

“I can say I’m ready but what a hell of player Robbie Keane was, it’s a hell of an achievement to be named alongside someone like him. I’ve got a long way to go, I’ll keep working hard and hopefully keep scoring goals.”