John Delaney: FAI talking to Stephen Kenny 'for quite a while' about taking over Ireland under-21s

Sun, Nov 25 2018

John Delaney speaks alongside FAI high performance director Ruud Dokter. Credit: Macdara Ferris

Macdara Ferris reports from Aviva Stadium

When Martin O’Neill was unveiled as Republic of Ireland manager five years ago this month, much of the talk was about his choice of assistant manager in Roy Keane.

In subsequent years, there was lots of discussion about Keane taking over the job from O’Neill when he departed.

With Sunday’s announcement of Mick McCarthy as the new Ireland boss, this time around there were plenty of questions about the Ireland under-21 manager Stephen Kenny as the FAI confirmed Kenny will succeed McCarthy after EURO 2020.

If Kenny had taken the under-21 role on its own, it would have been viewed within League of Ireland circles as a backwards step.

But with the FAI instigating a succession plan that will see Kenny take on the senior team, everyone is a winner – except for those with a keen interest in Dundalk FC.

Kenny will meet the press on Monday afternoon but, on Sunday, it was left to McCarthy and FAI CEO John Delaney to field questions about the man who will take the senior role in 2020.

The pair were meeting on Sunday night with McCarthy joking that Kenny was paying the bill but how well does the senior manager know the under-21 boss?

Not very well,” was McCarthy’s response.

“That’s not an issue though. I’m working with the national team with Terry [Connor] and Robbie [Keane].

“Ruud [Dokter] is there in terms of advice on some of the young players, and Stephen will hopefully be shoving players through from the 21s and banging their drum.

“We’ve got eight or ten games between March and November. I’ve got a lot of time from now to March to get to know everybody, go and see the players, find out a lot of things about a lot of people, and develop a relationship with him.

“I hope I’ll leave a team that’s qualified, and a good team and squad, behind for him to take over and qualify for the World Cup in 2022.”

When McCarthy last managed the Ireland team, they were playing out of a ramshackle stadium that had seen its best days long gone.

His announcement on Sunday came in the large media centre part of the shiny Aviva Stadium – a venue which will host four matches at EURO 2020.

Qualification is a must as Ireland certainly don’t want to be hosting a party that they cannot attend themselves.

“I’ve got to say it’s vital,” said McCarthy of the importance of qualification.

“If I do well and we qualify I can hand it on to Stephen and that will be wonderful.”

Should Ireland be successful, McCarthy admitted that he probably won’t want to give up the job but “I’ve no option, have I?”

Delaney admitted the FAI Board called time on O’Neill’s tenure after the Boys in Green UEFA Nations League relegation that took place ahead of the game in Denmark.

He stated that the FAI had been talking with Kenny “for quite a while” about taking the 21s job and managing the underage teams.

“It’s something the association want. He’s been an outstanding manager with Dundalk and the most successful manager in the League of Ireland over the last number of years. He’s been absolutely brilliant.

“In discussions with Stephen, he made it clear he wants the A job (as senior manager), and he’ll get that in 2020, and he’s happy to do so. The whole idea is Mick has a project to get us to 2020.

“Stephen is straight in managing the 21s and the underage teams, which is hugely important as a support to Ruud, and after the Euros he takes the A job. That’s the plan, that’s the strategy and that’s the vision.”

extratime.ie asked Delaney whether McCarthy will lean on Kenny’s League of Ireland knowledge, particularly in bringing new players in and to continue the recent trend of having domestic based players in the senior squad.

“Mick, Stephen Kenny and Ruud will work together on identifying the best players available to us,” he said.

“There are some very strong structures in this country, good underage managers with some very good underage results with a top class high performance director in Ruud.

“Now with the addition of Stephen Kenny in the underage structure and the U21s working closer with Mick McCarthy that is the vision and that is going to happen.

“The role he is going to take is perfect. He'll work in the FAI and get to understand international football more as it is different as you only get players for a couple of days compared with at club level every day of the week.

“I spoke to him today and he can't wait to go to Europe and see how other managers work, and to work with Mick McCarthy.

“Ruud can't wait for him to come in to the 21s and to work with the other managers. This is all positive.

“All these announcements today can only be a step forward for Irish football.

“Mick outlined how the senior team’s main aim is to qualify for 2020. When that is done it is Stephen’s turn to get us to Qatar 2022 and in between that Stephen will get himself immersed in the association and for the senior manager role.

“Stephen Kenny is an outstanding manager and by 2020 he will be even more experienced.”

Additional reporting by Dave Donnelly