Stephen Kenny: ‘I wasn’t one of those angry adopted kids that felt abandoned’
Future Republic of Ireland manager hopes he can help team reconnect with fans
Republic of Ireland under-21 manager Stephen Kenny spoke to Marian Finucane on RTÉ Radio 1. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Speaking to Marian Finucane on RTÉ Radio 1, the new under-21 Republic of Ireland manager described a sport-filled home life growing up with his adoptive parents in Dublin. He has agreed to replace Mick McCarthy as the coach of the senior team in 2020.
“I was adopted at a young age. It can be slow finding out information as an adopted child. They [social workers] have the information they can’t give you. They can only give you some of it. It can be frustrating.
“I got some news and some of it was a bit of a shock. I wasn’t one of those angry adopted kids that felt abandoned. I’d squared with myself that [my mother] was a woman aged 17-20 and in the 70s it was not unusual for someone to give up a child. I felt it was probably some young girl in a difficult situation,” he said.
Kenny spoke of his shock to find his mother was in her 30s when he was born.
“What I found out was not what I expected . . . So that was a real shock. I couldn’t believe it. She was a professional woman with a good career. So that was even strange, that you feel you were part of a lifestyle decision. You’d ask questions as to whether you were just not wanted in that regard.”
Kenny said it was a “strange sensation” to find out the authorities had located his mother but she had died some years previously.
“I got more information that she went on to get married and have two girls. I got the news to say ‘we found your mother’ but she had died a couple years ago. That was a strange sensation,” he said.
He described “a great relationship” with his adoptive parents where sport, competition and fun formed a central part of family life.
The former Dundalk FC manager said he believed there was a disconnect between the Irish public and the national soccer team.
“We want to see individual flair, we want to see skill, we want to see a team playing in a cohesive way,” he said.
The 47-year-old said he plans to focus on conviction and belief in his coaching methods in an environment where criticism is commonplace.
“I’ve studied that and it seems to be synonymous with international management throughout. It’s something I’ll have to get used to on a larger scale for sure.
“You can’t dwell on it. Once you have conviction in what you are doing yourself, belief in your methods, what anyone else thinks is irrelevant,” he said.
Kenny was hired as Dundalk manager at the end of 2012 and steered the squad through four league titles in six seasons, winning SSE Airtricity League Premier Division and the FAI Cup double this year. He also led Dundalk into the group stages of the Europa League in 2016.
The Louth club thanked Kenny for “driving the amazing success achieved during his tenure” following the announcement of his departure last week.
Kenny said he had his heart set on management from a young age.
“I got into coaching and managing at 26 with Longford, I was the youngest manager in Europe. I think the reason I was appointed was because nobody else really wanted it at that time, it was probably a position a lot of people had turned down.
“I was 3½ years there and basically it was a pitch with railings around it and a bit of a shed. We qualified for the Premier Division for the first time in their history and won promotion and qualified in Europe. It was great at the time because it was a big honour for people in the region and they came together and they built a stadium and it’s still there,” he said.