IRELAND BOSS Stephen Kenny praised his players’ efforts but admitted his side weren’t quite good enough to beat the Netherlands on Saturday night in Amsterdam.
The visitors suffered a 1-0 defeat thanks to Wout Weghorst’s first-half goal, but the gap in quality was greater than the scoreline suggested.
The fact that the Dutch had 19 attempts on goal compared to Ireland’s three was perhaps a better reflection of their dominance over the 90 minutes.
“Holland are world-class and one of the top teams in Europe with players at the best clubs,” Kenny told RTÉ afterwards. “We played them twice — there was nothing in the game in Dublin and tonight. They had a lot of chances and we relied on last-ditch defending and Gavin [Bazunu] to play well in goal.
“The reason Ireland have never beaten a tier-one team in our history in an away game is because it’s bloody hard. That’s why all the great [Irish] teams haven’t managed it. When you come to places like Holland, it’s a tough game.
“I salute my players for their courage. They wanted the ball in all areas, worked their socks off and put their body on the line. We lacked a bit of creativity in the final third at times. We break the press. We get into good areas and we recycle where we need to drive or cut in and shoot, get earlier crosses in. We need to add that still against the top teams
“But the players were very brave and played very well for long periods. Okay, we made mistakes in possession and nearly got punished, and we want to eradicate that.”
It was then put to Kenny that he still had the backing of the players and the Irish manager responded: “I don’t think it’s just for me, it’s for the whole environment and level of professionalism with all the staff, not just a personal one for me.
“We have rebuilt a team over the last couple of years because it was needed. The alternatives were players who moved down the divisions. There is no one that we’re overlooking. There is a massive deficit in Irish football. All of these players have been fast-tracked through.”
Asked whether he expects his time as manager to come to an end when the FAI board meet to discuss his performance at the end of the month, Kenny acknowledged the palpable uncertainty surrounding his future in the job.
“I really don’t know. I don’t control that. It’s quite possible. I don’t know. But all I can say is I see the effort tonight and the high level of skill, and bravery. It wasn’t enough. Holland were better than us. What’s the alternative? Defend deep and try and see it out? They will break you down anyway.”
He continued: “All of these players, bar one or two, the best years are ahead of them. We’ve blooded them early, that’s really enhanced their careers. With a lot of them, their international performances have helped them get their move in their club careers in a major way — that’s eight or nine players. I’m not talking about one or two. It’s helped them. Now, we need to get better.”
The Dutch loss was the culmination of Ireland’s worst-performing qualifying campaign since Euro ’72, with just two wins and six losses.
Nevertheless, Irish captain for the night Matt Doherty backed Kenny and his staff to continue in the job.
Asked about the possibility of it being the manager’s last competitive game in charge, the Wolves star replied: “I don’t know anything about that. I hope that’s not the case. This group needs to be coached well and that’s exactly the things we have been getting for a long time now.
“I hope he stays on after the [New Zealand] game. We were just talking about little things in the game — the differences between getting results and not getting results.
“I have always backed him and he has always backed me. I would love to see him and all the staff stay.
“If people really saw what it’s like on the training pitch, the changing room and how he cares about his players, just generally how they set us up, the attention to detail they have, I think you would be hard-pressed to find somebody else who can deliver that.”2023-11-18T23:16:34Z dg43tfdfdgfd