Stephen Kenny undaunted despite tricky Nations League fixture schedule

Manager confident he will be manager for European Championship campaign

Apologies for ruining the punch line but Stephen Kenny expects to be the Republic of Ireland manager come the summer of 2024.

Actually, he is “pretty certain” of that.

“No, there’s no update” Kenny informed the media in what may or may not prove the last festive briefing on contractual renegotiations with FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill.

Now, nobody panic, there is of course an update as Kenny met Hill somewhere outside Portsmouth after the Sheffield Wednesday match on December 7th.


“We sat down and had a chat in England and that was an introductory chat,” Kenny revealed when pressed. “I’m sure that will go on over the next number of weeks so it’s started and will progress from there.

“I’m sure that we’ll work it all out in time. I don’t see it as any major issue. I’m sure that we can move forward and sort it all out. It’s a process really and I’m just involved in the start of the process.”

This zoom-enforced gathering took a slight turn for the worst when the Liam Brady-led narrative of keeping the League of Ireland man on a tight leash in 2022 – just to be sure all the progress of recent months is really his doing – was broached.

“You mean as opposed to a two month contract from July to September ?” wondered Kenny, in an effort to kill further talk of a contract extension that only includes next year’s Nations League campaign.

“That would not make sense. That would only be a two month contract from July to September. I’ve never heard of such a contract before. It would be quite unprecedented. Listen, we’ve just started talking and everything will be ironed out in due course.”

“Reports from who?” Kenny asked the asker when the rumour about a break clause in any new deal, to save the FAI another big pay out, got an airing.

“I don’t know why that would be reported, I’ve no idea why it would be reported. It’s not something that I would be concerned about. Talks are ongoing , they have just started really.

“So it’s not something that I’m overly concerned with. I’m looking forward to the Nations League campaign and I am sure and pretty certain that I will be the manager for the European Championship campaign as well.”

Kenny is also keen to keep hold of assistant coaches Keith Andrews, Dean Kiely and Anthony Barry.

Double jobs

“We all actually love working together and have a great working environment and obviously the whole backroom team, the longer we’ve worked together, the better we’ve got as a unit. We’d like to keep it intact and that would be the idea, they’d ideally like to stay on of course.”

Some finessing will be required by Hill as Kiely double jobs as Crystal Palace goalkeeping coach while Barry puts the Chelsea first team through their paces.

“Contracts are not up until next July and for them it’s different I suppose because they are involved in day to day stuff at their clubs, [and] they’re not thinking real long term about it but they both want to stay on board and are very much an important part of the set-up going forward.”

Kenny declined to make a fuss about the 14,000 kilometre round trips that Ireland must undertake in a seven-day period next June while having to play three Nations League games.

“I believe it’s not something that’s allowed,” he replied when asked if a formal complaint went into Uefa considering Iceland and Israel were kept apart in Thursday’s draw due to the 6,500 kilometres between Tel Aviv and Reykjavik.

Seemingly, Ireland’s 4,000 kilometre journey to play Armenia on June 7th before returning to Dublin for Scotland on June 11th and a 3,000 kilometre trip to Kiev on June 14th failed to raise any red flags in Uefa’s logistics department.

“I think it is only ourselves and Armenia that have those double trips. They seem to be favouring the top seeds in relation to Ukraine playing Scotland and Ireland in the one trip, Scotland have two home games to start. You know, we have been given a tough schedule of matches, the way it has turned out. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t make us any less determined to get positive results.

“Listen, it is what it is. We’ve been given the fixtures now and we’ll just plan accordingly. I can’t really add any more.”

Republic of Ireland Nations League fixtures:

Saturday June 4th - Republic of Ireland v Ukraine (kick-off 7.45pm)

Tuesday June 7th - Armenia v Republic of Ireland (5pm)

Saturday June 11th - Republic of Ireland v Scotland (5pm)

Tuesday June 14th - Ukraine v Republic of Ireland (5pm)

Friday September 23rd - Scotland v Republic of Ireland (7.45pm)

Monday September 26th - Republic of Ireland v Armenia (7.45pm)

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent