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Martin O'Neill Questions Ireland's Lack Of Progress Under Stephen Kenny

Martin O'Neill Questions Ireland's Lack Of Progress Under Stephen Kenny
By Gary Connaughton

Martin O'Neill has a mixed legacy as Ireland manager.

He would lead the team to Euro 2016, where they performed well and reached the knockout stages. He also brought the side to a World Cup play-off in 2017, although they would be heavily defeated by Denmark on that occasion.

In saying that, there was a sense that O'Neill could have been more flexible in his approach. The style of football was very difficult to watch, while he also seemed hesitant to use some of Ireland's most creative talents. The lack of young players brought through was also a concern, with his resistance to using untested names one of the main reason Declan Rice eventually ended up playing for England.

The appointment of Stephen Kenny was meant to address many of the issues that had been present under previous Ireland managers. The former Dundalk boss wanted to get the team playing a more modern brand of football and integrate some of the country's most promising young prospects.

Some of those goals have been achieved, although the lack of consistency in results is still there. Having improved greatly over the latter half of 2021, the team's only two competitive matches this year have ended up in disappointing defeats against Armenia and Ukraine.

Martin O'Neill questions Ireland progress under Stephen Kenny

Martin O'Neill believes that Ireland's progress (or lack thereof) under the current manager is difficult to judge

Speaking to the Daily Record, the 70-year old said that while rebuilding the side is an admirable goal, international football is still ultimately about results.

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Where are Ireland right now? That’s a really good question. The Armenia game was a big, big setback. Sometimes you get a couple of results in matches against sides who are not in the top 80 – teams like Andorra, Lithuania. You can start to get a false impression of where you are.

Then you travel to Armenia fully expecting to win and get off to a bad start, it's a major setback for them.

I suppose a couple of years into Stephen's reign, you'd have to ask [where they're at].

If his remit was to rebuild an Irish side and get time to do that then that's fine. But in international football you still have to win football matches.

Many feel that Ireland's issues would be solved by having a truly elite player in the squad, something neither Stephen Kenny or Martin O'Neill have had the luxury of possessing.

We have seen how such names can have a telling impact on the international stage, with Gareth Bale and Wales the most obvious example.

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O'Neill feels that the lack of such a star is what is holding back the likes of Ireland and Scotland.

You need that difference maker. When I was managing the Republic, Robbie was ending his career. He was about 34 and just couldn't do it. He could maybe play and score a hat-trick against Gibraltar but against the bigger sides he wouldn't be able to do what he had been capable of doing.

We would have cried out for a Robbie Keane to be maybe ten years younger but we didn't have that. At the European Championships in France, our main man was Jon Walters. You wouldn't call Jon prolific.

And in the World Cup play-off that we got to, when Denmark hammered us, our main man was James McClean.

Scotland do not possess a Gareth Bale at the minute and Ireland haven’t had one since Robbie Keane in his heyday. Everyone is crying out for that and that is probably the difference between Scotland not heading to the World Cup.

Martin O'Neill has had only one job in management since losing the Ireland gig at the end of 2018, getting sacked by Nottingham Forest in June of 2019 after only five months in charge.

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SEE ALSO: The Much Changed Ireland Team We Want To See Against Scotland

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