The imminent and earlier arrival of Stephen Kenny as the new Republic of Ireland Senior Manager was not unexpected, with the postponement of their now 2021 Euro Semi-Final away to Slovakia not taking place till the Autumn at the earliest.
His earlier arrival is welcoming at it allows them to now build towards the future, and a new beginning and a clean slate allows him to stamp his authority on the set-up.
Mick McCarthy has divided opinion in his two spells as the Irish Manager none more so than the Saipan saga involving Roy Keane in 2002, and despite just 7 goals been scored in their 8 qualifying matches throughout the campaign, he managed to get the squad into a play-off, and most importantly, he deserves credit for the way he has restored competiveness and pride to the set-up especially after a disastrous 2018 in Martin O’Neills final year as manager, in which they were suffering the effects of their humiliating 5-1 play-off defeat at home to Denmark in the Aviva in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying play-off in November 2017.
The fact that Mick’s experience has managed to restore pride, credibility and respectability to the set-up has made it easier for the incoming manager arriving, and it will provide him with optimism ahead along with the great work and success that he has had with the Under-21s over the past 12 months.
Stephen Kenny is in bonus territory somewhat to begin with, so they can go to Slovakia and express themselves without much pressure and expectation, as they have the most difficult path to qualify out of the quartet that also involves Northern Ireland and Bosnia Herzegovina having an away trip in the qualifying play-off final if they manage to pull off the feat in Slovakia.
Former Kilkenny City Player and Manager Billy Walsh has spoken previously on KCLR about where Kenny needs to be given at least two major tournaments to try and get it right, particularly with their shortcomings in recent years, but with the progression rate of the U-21s over the past 12 months, the hope and prediction would be that some of that squad will get the call up under the now new Senior manager.
Troy Parrott was the star performer for the U-21s last year having scored 4 goals in the qualifying campaign, and he has Senior International experience having set-up an assist for Sean Maguire in their 3-1 victory over New Zealand.
Unquestionably despite his tender years, Parrott can expect to feature regularly in the Irish set-up, as the Dubliner has seen close at hand his capability to what he possesses.
Interestingly and amazingly, Ireland with on paper a 2nd string team provided a far greater attacking and potent threat on view and on paper in a meaningless match against New Zealand, in contrast to the conservative and limited selection including Alan Browne, James McClean and Daryl McGoldrick that featured 4 days later against Denmark in what was a must win match to qualify automatically for the Euros.
A number of players who featured that night against the All Whites – New Zealand – will more than likely have a prominent role to play under Kenny.
Apart from Troy Parrott, Sean Maguire and Shamrock Rovers Jack Byrne will be expected to feature more prominently, and their attacking presence can provide the Irish with a far greater cutting edge and ruthlessness that has been clearly lacking in recent years.
As a highly experienced and successful League of Ireland Manager having guided Dundalk to 4 Premier Divisions and 2 FAI Cups including League and Cup doubles in 2015 and 2018, while also enjoying a whirlwind European adventure in 2016, Kenny undoubtedly will be regularly attending League of Ireland matches and monitoring players very closely as he bolsters and refreshes the squad for subsequent and qualifying campaigns.
Jack Byrne has been starring for Shamrock Rovers under the tutelage of Stephen Bradley, and similar to Wes Holohan he is most certainly the one player within the set-up who can provide that attacking creativity, and in his two appearances that he featured against both Bulgaria and New Zealand, he certainly brought a swagger and confidence that have opposition defenses on aware.
Also, Robbie Brady who featured that night last November against the All-Whites has been out with long-term injuries, and if he can remain injury-free still has a major part to play, and his experience and attacking assets give the Irish another potent weapon.
Plenty of promises to look forward to as a new era has now begun, the big question is when will the new era commence competitively?