Football

Brian Kerr Is Stuck On The Outside Of Irish Football But His Influence Is Still Felt

Brian Kerr Is Stuck On The Outside Of Irish Football But His Influence Is Still Felt

When Brian Kerr was appointed to the senior manager's role with the Republic of Ireland, a person he describes as "one of the most eminent people in the FAI" took him aside.

"Will you make me one promise? When you finish doing this job, promise me you’ll come back and do the job you were doing previously".

That "eminent" member is no longer involved with the FAI, and neither is Kerr. "Needless to say that while that was in my head as a possibility, it never happened. It was never brought up again".

After he finished as senior boss, Kerr did not return to the Irish international fold. Instead, he took a job upstairs at St Pat's and coached the Faroe Islands. As the production line of young Irish talent has slowed, Kerr's name has been swallowed by ambient pleas for his being involved with the Association in some capacity. It hasn't happened.

Not that he's pissed off about it.

No, no. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve done since then. I enjoyed my time in the Faroes - it was great. It was a tempting challenge, there wasn’t a deep pool of players there but they were great people. I consider that a high point of my managerial career.

We achieved a couple of wins and a couple of good draws, too. I enjoyed my work at St Pat's, and rebuilding the club’s structures with Garrett Kelleher and John McDonnell.

I absolutely enjoy what I do in the media. Going to games and trying to watch them closely, and explaining them to people in an entertaining way is nice to do, rather than just watching them in a forensic way for my own interests.

I’m still going to lots of football that doesn’t have a media profile, I see lots of League of Ireland games and underage games too.

So it’s all good.

Life is good.

While life is good, you get the feeling that it could be better.

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His passion for Irish football is pure and has proved infectious. At the premiere of a recent documentary charting his success with the Irish youth set-up in the latter half of the 1990s, Damien Duff testified that the only team that could make him cry was Ireland, and the only man that could twitch him to tears was Kerr.

"Stephen [Kenny] spoke emotionally about what an honour it is, and it was just as emotional for me", says Kerr. "Every day I woke up as a manager of whichever of the teams I was involved in was a great day, a day of great responsibility".

Although he is on the outside now, Kerr's influence penetrates deep. Once upon a time, he spotted a young Stephen Kenny playing for Belvedere and brought him to Pat's. From there Kenny coached Pat's under-21s, and from there started massaging miracles from Longford Town. Kerr also gave Kenny his first  -and to date, only - experience of international football, as he and Noel O'Reilly took Kenny as part of their backroom team to a youth tournament in Israel in 2000.

Would he be interested if Kenny decided to return the favour, and offer him a backroom role?

Of course I would seriously consider any role working with the international team should one be offerred, but it seems most unlikely as I haven’t had any contact from the FAI or the people who make decisions at the FAI.

Stephen will do his work and gather his people. I don’t see Stephen having a situation in which he can bring in a load of people to work with him and the under-21s.  I dont think there will be many vacancies there. There will be people who are already working with the association or people Stephen has worked with at club level.

For the foreseeable future, Kerr's will have to be content with an influence vicariously lived.

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Two of the most famous of Kerr's kids are wading into the same game: Robbie Keane will work with Mick McCarthy in the Irish set-up, while Damien Duff looks set to join Celtic in the New Year. There are others. Neale Fenn, for example, was part of Kerr's under-20 side in 1997 and is now in charge of Longford Town.

Does this make him proud?

Yeah. Some of the teams at Pat’s, many of the players ended up as managers in the League of Ireland. Looking back I ask myself, ‘God, did we have an influence? Fellas like Pat Fenlon, John McDonnell, Eddie Gormley, Paul Osam. Now I see it with the international players. It’s nice to see them going into it. Damien obviously has a goo for it. He has done his bit at Rovers and I think he’s going to go to Celtic in January.

That’ll be a big challenge for him, but he has lovely communication skills and clear ideals of how he wants players to do, and what they have to do to make it. No better man to show them how to do it.

If anyone is going to show players how to dribble and beat players, no better man to do it than Damien. He still has that swagger about him when he gets the ball at his feet.

Robbie Keane's first coaching priority will be qualification for Euro 2020. The risible Nations League campaign and attendant poor seeding has complicated Ireland's prospects, but the expansion of the tournament and the safety net of the Nations League playoff gives some grounds for hope.

It’s nearly a place for everyone in the audience now. Irrespective of how the draw goes, you'll probably get a second chance. It sounds like a handy process....I wish it was as handy when I was in it!

Brian Kerr was speaking to Balls to promote Volkswagen as the official mobility partners of Euro 2020. A full-length video version of this interview can be seen here

See Also: Stephen Kenny Reveals Details Of Remarkable Search For His Birth Mother

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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