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How Did Kenny's First Two Games In Charge Compare To Predecessors?

How Did Kenny's First Two Games In Charge Compare To Predecessors?
By Gary Connaughton
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It was not the start Ireland supporters were hoping for under Stephen Kenny, with some even going as far as to write off the former Dundalk boss.

Such opinions are obviously incredibly premature. It will take time for the new manager to implement his philosophy.

Just looks at some of his predecessors. A quick look back at the early reigns of previous Ireland managers tells you that you can often take little away from their early games in charge.

Here's how each of Ireland's last seven managers fared during their first two games with the team.


Jack Charlton

26/3/86 - Ireland 0-1 Wales (Friendly)

23/4/86 - Ireland 1-1 Uruguay (Friendly)


This was hardly the most glamorous start for the man who would go on to become Ireland's most successful manager.

Wales rocked up to Lansdowne Road in a March friendly to take on Ireland, who had somewhat controversially appointed Jack Charlton a few months earlier. It was a fairly drab affair, with Ian Rush scoring the only goal of the game. There were few signs that we were about to embark on the greatest era of Irish football.

However, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge, both of Oxford United at the time, would make their international debuts.


The second game came in the form of a friendly against Uruguay, with Gerry Daly grabbing Ireland's only goal of the game from the penalty spot in a 1-1 draw.

Next for Ireland came a trip to Iceland in a post-season tournament, which proved to be a key period in Chartlon's reign. This was the first opportunity he got to really get his tactics across to the team, with an extended training camp in the Nordic country.

Ireland would qualify for a first ever major tournament 18 months later.


Mick McCarthy

27/3/96 - Ireland 0-2 Russia (Friendly)

29/5/96 - Ireland 0-1 Portugal (Friendly)

It was not an easy start to life as Ireland manager for Mick McCarthy. He would win only one of his first six matches in charge, and that was against Lichtenstein.


His first game in charge was a friendly defeat at home to Russia, a game in which he would hand Shay Given his Ireland debut. Mark Kennedy was also brought into the side despite being a reserve player at Liverpool.

After the game, Paul McGrath said:

After 10 years of always knocking the ball forward, it was different to be told "get it down and play and don’t worry if you make a mistake".

That sounds familiar.

McCarthy would lose his second game with the team a few months later, but the side would reach a play-off in the subsequent World Cup qualifying campaign, losing to Belgium.

Brian Kerr

29/3/03 - Georgia 1-2 Ireland (Euro 2004 qualifier)


2/4/03 - Albania 0-0 Ireland (Euro 2004 qualifier)

Brian Kerr came into the Ireland job two games into the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, meaning there was little opportunity for him ease into the role.

The fixture in Georgia was certainly a baptism of fire. Some of the notable incidents from the game included Kevin Kilbane being hit by a pen knife thrown from the crowd, while Damien Duff, Lee Carsley, and Gary Breen were also hit by projectiles.

Shay Given and Gary Doherty were narrowly missed by glass bottles. Goals from Doherty and Damien Duff were enough to squeeze a victory.

There was no such luck in Albania a few days later. This was a decent Albanian side, one who had defeated Russia only a few days later. The Guardian said that after the draw Kerr could 'look back on a satisfactory night and a successful week'.

Unfortunately, neither of the qualifying campaigns he was involved in would go his way.

Steve Staunton

1/3/06 - Ireland 3-0 Sweden (Friendly)


16/8/06 - Ireland 0-4 The Netherlands (Friendly)

What a start this was for Steve Staunton. Unfortunately, it was about as good as things got for him during his time as Ireland manager.

Goals from Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, and Liam Miller handed them a convincing victory over a Swedish team containing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson. A debut was also handed to Stephen Ireland.

However, the defeat against The Netherlands a few months later would be closer to the form we would see under Staunton. Ireland were missing a number of their first choice players for the game in Dublin, but the opening paragraph of The Guardian's match report says it all:

Steve Staunton bore the pale, slightly sweaty, hallmarks of a man sickening for something nasty last night.

Ireland's novice coach had not only witnessed his side's heaviest defeat here for more than 20 years but also seen Marco van Basten's remodelled Holland thoroughly expose both the limitations of an inexperienced home ensemble and the folly of his highly experimental formation.

He would be out of the job just over 12 months later.


Giovanni Trapattoni

24/5/08 - Ireland 1-1 Serbia (Friendly)

29/5/08 - Ireland 1-0 Colombia (Friendly)

After the disaster that was the Steve Staunton experiment, Ireland fans were thrilled to get in a manager with the pedigree of Giovanni Trapattoni.

His first game came in the form of a friendly against Serbia, with Andy Keogh scoring Ireland's goal in injury time of the 1-1 draw. Glenn Whelan 'looked at home' during his debut in midfield according to RTE, who also noted that fans walked away from Croke Park with smiles on their faces after the game.

The Italian would earn his first win a few days later in the unfamiliar surroundings of Craven Cottage, with a goal from Robbie Keane earning what the BBC labelled as a 'fortunate victory' against a Colombian side who dominate the game.

Ireland would go on to earn a play-off in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, although we think the two-legged tie against France was fairly uneventful.

Martin O'Neill

15/11/13 - Ireland 3-0 Latvia (Friendly)

19/11/13 - Poland 0-0 Ireland (Friendly)

Martin O'Neill earned the biggest debut win for an Ireland manager in the post-Charlton era with a 3-0 win over Latvia. Goals from Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady, and Shane Long ensured victory in a game in which Ireland had 21 attempts on goal and 61% possession.

The BBC mentioned the added interest in the fixture after the appointment of O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane:

They will be buoyed by the warm reception they received from the crowd in Dublin, with the attendance swelled by the great interest sparked by the managerial appointment.

The game in Poland a few days later was less fruitful, with The Guardian mentioning that Ireland had to defend for their lives late on in search of the draw. Still, a solid start.

Ireland would go on to qualify for Euro 2016 in the subsequent qualifying campaign via a third placed finish in their group and a play-off win over Bosnia & Herzegovina.


Mick McCarthy

23/3/19 - Gibraltar 0-1 Ireland (Euro 2020 qualifier)

26/3/19 - Ireland 1-0 Georgia (Euro 2020 qualifier)

Things had grown so stale by the end of the Martin O'Neill era that Ireland supporters were just delighted to see anybody else in charge of the international team.

His replacement came in the form of Mick McCarthy, although the strange succession plan with Stephen Kenny meant there was a cloud hanging over his tenure right from the off. That was only exasperated during his first game in charge, when people were far more interested in events off the pitch as opposed to on it.

Just before the game in Gibraltar, news broke that John Delaney was set to step aside from his role as Chief Executive Officer of the FAI after news his €100,000 loan to the association had been leaked in the media. It made for a very strange set of circumstances around McCarthy's return.

The game itself was fairly dire, with Jeff Hendrick scoring the only goal of the game. It could have been a very embarrassing result if not for some heroics from Darren Randolph.

The game at home to Georgia a few days later was a far more encouraging affair, even if the 1-0 scoreline was hardly the most eye-catching. The match is perhaps best remembered for the tennis ball protest, with John Delaney once against stealing the headlines.

Ultimately, the optimism surrounding McCarthy's return to the Ireland fold had largely dissipated by the end of the group, with results regressing and the manager stubborn in his approach.

He would be removed from his post after the Euro 2020 play-off (which had been secured in the UEFA Nations League and had nothing to do with Ireland's performance in the qualifying group) was postponed due to the covid-19 pandemic.


See Also: We Need Some Perspective On What These Results Really Mean For Stephen Kenny

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