If Stephen Kenny didn’t have bad luck, he would have no luck at all

Stephen Kenny pictured at the Aviva Stadium on the day he announced his squad for upcoming Latvia and France games

Hopefully Stephen Kenny will still be smiling after Sunday night Credit: Conor Ryan (ETPhotos)

When Stephen Kenny took over the reins from Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland manager, it was supposed to be a glass ceiling moment for Irish football.

It’s been a smashed mirrors scenario with Kenny enduring an avalanche of rotten luck.

Kenny’s position has been subject to ‘spirited’ debate but whatever side you stand on this three-year-long referendum, the scale of his bad luck is inarguable. It’s been brutal.

One has to wonder what the 51-year-old did in a previous life to be dealt such a horrific hand with Evan Ferguson’s knee injury which rules him out of crucial Euro 2024 qualifiers against France and the Netherlands most likely a crushing blow to the Boys in Green’s fading hopes.

Between the pandemic, COVID-19 enforced absences, injuries and a nearly impossible group it seems Kenny hasn’t got a fair crack of the whip when it comes to building his project around this qualifying campaign.

Of course, the defeat in Athens during the last window is an outlier. The former Dundalk manager had a full pool to pick from and was ruthlessly exposed tactically by an impressive Greek outfit who have made their home turf a fortress under Gus Poyet.

Ireland could have won their Nations League group or at least performed better to avoid being third seeds for the EURO 2024 draw. However, to draw the Dutch as top seeds and the then world cup champions France as second seeds – who used the Nations League as a warm up for the Qatar World Cup - was a harrowing blow to this frail project.

The double whammy was seeing the Greeks appear as fourth seeds, very much the sleepers in a group of death.

Kenny has undoubtedly made mistakes as Republic of Ireland manager, even Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have off days!

Perhaps you earn your luck and he is suffering the consequences of that embarrassing defeat at home to Luxembourg and a Lansdowne Road draw with Azerbaijan but Ferguson’s injury after announcing himself as a world star with a hat trick for Brighton & Hove Albion adds insult to injury.

What else could go wrong for Stephen Kenny? It’s a very unscientific things to say, but he has been totally absent of any fortune.

He seems like he has been doomed from the off. Ireland played very well in that infamous Euro 2020 playoff loss to Slovakia, missed countless chances, hit the frame of the goal and of course, that Matt Doherty penalty rattling the crossbar sealed our fate that night and in truth, Kenny’s charges haven’t really recovered despite a huge influx of young talent since.

Kenny also had to deal without Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly that night for social distancing breaches because they sat a centimetre too close to each other on the team plane.

Certainly, the early Kenny era of 2020 and the start of 2021 was riddled with moral victories on XG, COVID-19 riddled and injury ravaged squads.

The team showed gradual improvement towards the end of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign but again, Ireland couldn’t eek out that big statement win that has been absent since Germany in 2015.

Harsh losses to Portugal away and at home to France sandwich a bewildering disallowed goal in a scoreless draw at home to Portugal.

It seems like Kenny’s side keep getting to the tip of the mountain but can’t quite reach the top and Ferguson’s injury gives an already daunting task away to France in Paris, an air of doom.

The Republic of Ireland are ranked 53rd in the world for a reason, they are a bang average international outfit, with the hope the policy of blooding youngsters can lead to a brighter future.

Ireland head to the Parc des Princes on Thursday, a few miles down the road from that infamous night in the Stade de France which proved to be the last kick – pardon the pun – from a great Irish team.

Euro 2012 came too late for Shay Given, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, all of whom were past their peak and worn out by Trappatoni by the time Poland and Ukraine came around.

Since then, they have lacked a star turn in the side. Yes, very good players have donned the green jersey in that time but heading to Paris we had this one ace in the pack, this crown jewel a confirmed golden boy.

One clear outstanding player that plenty of teams at Ireland’s level have been able to churn out. The player who could stun the French and score a goal out of nothing, one who could salvage the most unlikely of results.

Now, he’s injured and Kenny will be scratching his head as to who will lead the line. Likely Adam Idah.

Ireland will kick off on Thursday night with an injury ravaged squad in the absence of Seamus Coleman who put in a tremendous man marking job on Kylian Mbappe in the corresponding fixture.

Matt Doherty will serve the second of a two-game ban for a red card in Athens but Michael Obafemi and Mikey Johnston are also out injured, leaving Ireland without three of their four attackers (Chiedoze Ogbene) for this international window.

You simply could not write it, unless you are Stephen Kenny.