‘We should have won’ insists Kenny after Azerbaijan draw

Ireland manager refuses to accept job is too big for him after 112th in world take a point

‘Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again’ was the general gist of Stephen Kenny’s post-match interview as Ireland scraped a miserable draw with Azerbaijan on Lansdowne Road.

The first question was a soft ball. Kenny’s Ireland shows well in defeat to a Serbia or a Portugal only to descend into helter-skelter, hit and hope tactics to salvage a result against the minnow nation that follows a few days later. What does he put that recurring theme down to?

“It is probably a game we deserved to win three or four-one,” said Kenny of a sixth draw to go with eight defeats since he became the national manager last year. “We created a lot of chances on the day and it was a game we deserved to win but just didn’t win.”

As Clint Eastwood reminded Gene Hackman in Unforgiven, deserve has got nothing to do with it.


“Makhmudov scores goals from outside the box - we have seen him do that and we should have closed him down,” said Kenny of Séamus Coleman and Josh Cullen’s loose defending for Azerbaijan’s goal on the stroke of half-time. “It is an unbelievable goal from his point of view but it was a real killer blow for us. It changed the narrative.”

In fact, it is the very same tale, looping around and around.

John Delaney was trending at full-time. This coming week Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds is due to give her ruling on the relevancy of Delaney's emails with regards to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement's criminal investigation into the running of the FAI.

So there’s that. And there is one point banked from a possible 12 in Group A. Qualification for next year’s World Cup in Qatar could prove a mathematical impossibility after Serbia comes to Dublin on Tuesday (and yes, there are still plenty of tickets as tonight was about 3,000 shy of the 25,000 half-full Aviva Stadium capacity).

Kenny, when asked if the job has become too much for him, gave another bullish response that sounded hollow off the back of such a sloppy showing against a country ranked 112 in the world.

“I certainly do not accept that,” he replied. “Absolutely not. We were absolutely exceptional against Portugal, we played very well against Hungary, in the previous game we scored four goals [while also conceding one to Andorra], the previous game against Qatar we played well, obviously we had a poor game against Luxembourg and the previous game against Serbia was excellent.

“So, a lot of the recent performances have been very, very good but we got to turn performances into results.

“We have played an awful lot of good football. Today, if we win 2-1 we are having a different conversation so we are kicking ourselves that we haven’t won that game.”

Sam Allardyce was also trending.

When it was put to Kenny that he got his selection and formation badly wrong; the proof being Aaron Connolly got hooked at half-time and Troy Parrott struggled for space as the number 10 in a congested six man midfield, the manager felt the need to defend the players when the criticism was being levelled at him.

“Troy did ok in the game. Troy is playing that position at his club at the moment. I wouldn’t be critical of any of the players really. We had a lot of experience in the team as well. There is room for improvement as well.”

Several hundred fans in the west upper were more interested in leaving before Shane Duffy’s equaliser rather than booing this performance but the worst sound in the world for an Ireland manager on home soil did break through the silence at full-time.

“I think the crowd were brilliant,” said Kenny. “I didn’t take it that they were booing the team or booing…I think they were disappointed at the end that we couldn’t get that winner.”

No competitive win as the Irish manager, how do you think it is going?

“Results overall certainly have not been what I wanted but we are building a very good team, you saw that in Portugal, an outstanding performance, we went one-nil up and ended up losing in injury time.

“It is disappointing, today we should have won, we dominated a lot of the game.”

The zoom line went mute, before a lower version of Kenny’s voice came back and then faded, just as the floodlights were shut off in the Aviva Stadium.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent