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Michael O'Neill: Stephen Kenny can succeed with Republic of Ireland but I feel for Mick McCarthy

 

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Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill

PA

Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill believes Stephen Kenny has a "great opportunity" to showcase his talents as Republic of Ireland manager - but has sympathy for Mick McCarthy after the Football Association of Ireland opted to axe him prematurely from his top position.

This month, the FAI announced Kenny would succeed McCarthy with immediate effect.

Former Derry City boss Kenny had been in line to replace McCarthy after Euro 2020 but with the postponement of the play-offs - the Republic had been scheduled to face Slovakia in a semi-final last month - combined with the tournament itself being delayed until 2021 due to the coronavirus, the FAI opted to bring the plan forward.

It means that while McCarthy's second spell in charge of the Republic is over, Kenny is now leading the senior side having moved up from his role as Under-21 manager.

"I am disappointed for Mick because he is a good guy and he had a chance to go into the play-offs to get to another major tournament. It was a difficult situation but they (the FAI) obviously felt the way they had done the succession plan they had to make that decision," said O'Neill.

"But the Republic are in a good place and Stephen has shown he is able to adapt to international football.

"Managing senior players is a completely different scenario from the Under-21s who are still in the infancy of their careers, but it is a great opportunity for him."

Had the play-offs gone ahead as planned in March and Northern Ireland won in Bosnia and the Republic defeated Slovakia, O’Neill and McCarthy would have been going toe-to-toe at Windsor Park with a place at the Euro 2020 finals at stake.

Instead, McCarthy, who guided the Republic to the 2002 World Cup finals, has gone and with uncertainty surrounding O’Neill’s future as Northern Ireland boss there is a strong possibility he won’t be around for the play-offs either due to the demands of his job at Stoke City.

Like O’Neill, who shone as Shamrock Rovers manager before being appointed Northern Ireland boss, prior to stepping up to international level Kenny was mostly known for his success in the League of Ireland, in particular with Dundalk.

Both displayed their capabilities in leading those respective teams into the Europa League group stages.

Kenny took over from O’Neill as Rovers boss in 2011 though was sacked after nine months. 

O’Neill added: “Stephen was manager of Derry when I was manager of Shamrock Rovers and when I left Shamrock Rovers he replaced me there.

“The job he did at Dundalk was fantastic and he also did well with the Republic of Ireland Under-21s. What Stephen probably will do is try and integrate as many young players as possible."

Belfast Telegraph