Soccer

Stephen Kenny: Republic of Ireland boss insists he can lead recovery after low of Luxembourg loss

Stephen Kenny is convinced he can do “a very good job” as Republic of Ireland manager despite presiding over a catastrophic start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Kenny’s 10-game reign plumbed new depths on Saturday evening when Ireland slipped to an ignominious 1-0 Qualifier defeat at home to Luxembourg on a night when a first victory under the former U21s boss was the only option.

He later insisted he was not worried about his job despite mounting criticism and when asked why, he replied: “It’s not something I’m focusing on. From my point of view, I can’t affect that. It’s not something I’m focusing on at all.

“We all have setbacks at various times and I have absolute conviction that I’m capable of doing a very good job here, but on this evidence that doesn’t back it up, I do realise that.

“We have to do a hell of a lot better than that.”

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Kenny’s planned elevation to the senior job as Mick McCarthy stepped aside did not meet with universal approval, and the hugely successful League of Ireland boss is facing an uphill battle to win over his detractors.

The Republic will not be at this summer’s rescheduled Euro 2020 finals after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat in Slovakia, and their chances of making it to the next year’s World Cup finals have been drastically reduced after back-to-back defeats by Serbia and Luxembourg.

Nevertheless, Kenny remains defiant as he turns his attention to Tuesday night’s friendly against hosts Qatar in Debrecen, live on Sky Sports.

He said: “I don’t think it’s up to me to convince people, what we’ve got to do is get better results and better performances. We’ve got another game now on Tuesday and we’ve just got to go again.

“Over the campaign, we’ve got to do a lot better than we did [on Saturday night]. The performance against Serbia was excellent but ultimately, we didn’t win. [Saturday night] is a real setback for us, I’m not denying that, there’s no getting away from that.

“I have to accept the criticism, to be honest with you, that comes my way and fight harder to do better. That will be my intention.”

Ireland sit at the foot of Group A after two rounds of fixtures and with a trip to reigning European champions Portugal next up in September, when they also face Azerbaijan and Serbia at home, things could get worse before they get better.

Asked if he believes qualification remains a possibility, Kenny replied: “Well, it’s only two games out of eight and there’s a lot of football to be played.

“We’ve given ourselves a lot to do, there’s no doubt about that. We’re unlikely, of course, to win the group, but we still have to try to work hard to try to put ourselves in contention.

“The three games in September will be very important. There will be nine points to play for, so we’ve just got to try the maximum in that window.”

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