Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this Irish side won’t be either. It has been slow going for the national team so far under Stephen Kenny. No win in the first 11 games, with losses to the likes of Finland and Luxemburg, it could not have started out worse for Stephen Kenny.
However, there was a turning point with the narrow defeat to Portugal where Ireland lead for the entire second half until they were undone by two goals in injury time. The way this Irish side played against one of the best teams in the world was encouraging and was one of the first times in a while where we have seen Ireland play good technical football.
After this, Ireland haven’t lost in 8 games and have started beating teams you would expect us to beat and giving far more talented teams a hard game and emerging with a draw. This change in fortune for the Irish team has coincided with the emergence of several new players with Gavin Bazunu and Chiedozie Ogbene quickly becoming key players in a younger Irish side.
In saying all this, Ireland is still a ways away from qualifying for the World Cup or the Euros with the last two qualifying campaigns being a disaster. It will be important for Kenny to have a good nations league campaign over the summer with Ireland being in a tough group alongside Scotland, Ukraine, and Armenia. The likelihood that Ireland will get out of this group is low but, having a good nations league will be important given how poor the other campaigns have gone for Kenny so far.
There are several new faces that could be in with a chance to make the squad for the first time or returning after an absence with Michael Obafemi and Mark McGuinness being two players that would be in with a shout after stellar seasons with their clubs.
The return of Norwich duo Andrew Omobamidele and Adam Idah will be a big boost for the next round of fixtures in June. Kenny’s last 10 games showed that he deserved the contract extension and the next 10 will show if he deserves another and, for the sake of Irish football, I hope he does.