Stephen Kenny: Managing Ireland would be ‘the greatest honour’
Eoin Hand says Kenny ‘could do for Irish soccer what Joe Schmidt has done for rugby’
Stephen Kenny celebrates at the final whistle after Dundalk’s FAI Cup win over Cork City . Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny has said managing Ireland would be “the greatest honour you can have” and has been backed by former international boss Eoin Hand, who believes Kenny “could do for Irish soccer what Joe Schmidt has done for rugby”.
Kenny, who led Dundalk to the double this season, has been installed as second favourite behind Mick McCarthy to take over from Martin O’Neill, whose five-year rein came to an end on Wednesday after a disastrous Nations League campaign.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat, Kenny said: “I think managing your country is the ultimate honour. If you offered me the job of managing Real Madrid or Barcelona or Ireland, I would choose to manage Ireland, because it’s the greatest honour you can have as an Irishman.”
Hand, who managed Ireland between 1980 and 1985, believes Kenny deserves a chance of leading the national team as part of a managerial team with former Ireland boss Mick McCarthy.
“I would actually love to see Stephen getting the top job, but his profile mightn’t be big enough,” said Hand. “So bringing in Mick McCarthy, who has experience of getting us to finals, to work with him would be an excellent choice, with Stephen taking over eventually.
“Stephen has earned the right to be number one and there is no question that he wouldn’t have the respect of the senior players. He is such a hard worker and so brilliant with organisation and detail that he could do for Irish soccer what Joe Schmidt has done for rugby.”
Hand believes the international side played with a real fear over the past 12 months and they seemed afraid to make mistakes every time they took to the field.
“There was a real toxic atmosphere in the camp and all the rows that were going on between the likes of Roy Keane and Harry Arter seemed to have manifested itself on the pitch,” said Hand, who managed Ireland immediately prior to the Jack Charlton era.
“The kind of hardman approach Roy Keane takes doesn’t wash with senior players and the management should have known that.”
Now retired to the rural north Kerry village of Moyvane, the former Ireland boss believes O’Neill’s influence went rapidly downhill when he and Keane were being linked with vacant managerial jobs at Stoke City and Everton.
He said the situation would have been much more satisfactory if they had left at that stage or if the FAI had encouraged them to depart.
“Good performances were needed to make sure the commitment was seen to be there but it went the opposite way. The performances were abysmal,” added Hand.
“It was inevitable that they went. It really had to happen. Once you lose the supporters then there’s a problem.”
Hand said it was nonsense to suggest that Ireland didn’t have the quality players required because Northern Ireland and Wales are in a similar position and they “played us off the park”.
“You have got to maximise what you’ve got to work with. You must always seek somebody better to bring in, but it’s vital to get the best out of what you’ve got and Martin didn’t achieve that,” Hand said.