Stephen Kenny has made plenty of brave decisions during his time as Ireland manager.
During a make or break period when the team badly needed an injection of youth, he made it a priority to blood emerging talents and establish them as key building blocks in the side. Even when results were poor at the start of his tenure, he persisted with this policy despite heavy criticism from some quarters.
Now as the team is set to embark on its Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, the fruits of his labour are starting to become clear. The current side is young, dynamic, and improving all the time.
In saying that, there is one particular position that has yet to be nailed down in the team. It comes at left wingback, where Callum O'Dowda and James McClean were called up for this particular international window.
O'Dowda started against Latvia in midweek, and having performed well in the game, he looked all but certain to retain his place for the game against France tomorrow night. However, Stephen Kenny confirmed this morning that the Cardiff City man was a major injury doubt for the fixture, with Robbie Brady being called up as cover.
While Brady is deserving of his place in the squad, the decision to bring him in does once again highlight one of Kenny's apparent blindspots as Ireland boss.
Stephen Kenny continues to baffle with Ryan Manning decision
Ryan Manning has been among the most consistent performers in the Championship this season.
WhoScored ranks him as the fifth-best player in the division based on an average of their player ratings over the course of the campaign, with the Galway native scoring four goals and registering six assists for Swansea City. He has also been named as man-of-the-match on seven occasions.
Great finish here from Ryan Manning to give Swansea the lead against Hull 👏☘️pic.twitter.com/VrzkT19M2W
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) September 17, 2022
He has had an absolutely brilliant campaign as a left wingback, a position in which Ireland have been calling out for some stability.
As a result, Stephen Kenny's decision to consistently overlook him is nothing short of baffling.
Manning has been given few opportunities under the current manager. He has earned six Ireland caps in his career, all of which came under Kenny.
However, you always got the sense that he never really trusted the 26-year old. In fact, only one of his six caps came in a competitive game, starting the UEFA Nations League draw with Bulgaria in November of 2020. He only played in that game due to a spate of injury and covid issues.
Of his other Ireland appearances, four came via cameos of ten minutes or less in friendly games. The other was a full 90 minutes in a friendly against Lithuania in March of last year, his most recent cap.
It was odd to see Kenny overlook him for much of his tenure, but his decision to do so now is becoming egregious. Manning is in the best form of his career and would add a huge amount to the Ireland squad.
It was remarkable that he was not included in the initial squad this month. James McClean and Callum O'Dowda have plenty to offer, but neither are natural wingbacks and not performed to the same level as Manning this season. The fact that he has not been brought in after O'Dowda's injury is nothing short of astonishing.
Judging by every available metric, Ryan Manning should be one of the first names on the Ireland team sheet. Instead, he is viewed by his manager as a fourth or fifth string option in a problem position for the side.
The whole situation is downright bizarre.
Stephen Kenny will be hoping that whoever starts against France at left wingback has an absolute stormer. If not, fans will rightly ask questions about his selection decisions.