Throughout last year, there was a growing sense that Stephen Kenny’s tenure as the manager of the Republic of Ireland senior team was coming to an end.

Even when there was a mathematical chance that the team could still secure a spot for Euro 2024, few expected it to materialise. Kenny himself had said during the qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup to judge him on the next one and so, when Ireland came up short – finishing behind France, the Netherlands and Greece and just ahead of Gibraltar – there was only going to be one outcome.

None of this is about castigating Kenny. He is a decent man by all accounts but things didn’t work out for him in the job; some of that was due to outside factors and there were areas where he could have done better. It happens.

New Zealand

However, his last match in charge was against New Zealand on 21 November (regarding last week’s column and associating life events with sporting occasions, I can remember this date as I was in hospital for an ear operation) and the manager’s job remains vacant.

That’s more than three months of an official recruitment process but, given that the dogs on the street knew from around the middle of last year that Kenny would not be leading Ireland into 2024, the decision-makers have had the guts of nine months to be planning ahead.

Well-run organisations have succession plans and will know what to do if key personnel exit left. Since the Genesis Report of 2002 in the wake of Roy Keane-Mick McCarthy saga and the level of planning and preparation for that World Cup, the FAI seems to be a in a constant state of working towards a bright, new future, similar to the, “sunlit uplands” promised by those who pushed for a leave vote on Brexit.

Of course, part of the new broom in 2002 was John Delaney, who went on to become chief executive. The man now in that role, Jonathan Hill, was the latest sheriff in to clean up the previous mess but, as last week’s appearance before an Oireachtas committee showed, he is not necessarily running the tightest of ships.

Throwaway line

On the surface, the issue around Hill being paid in lieu of holidays not taken is not a big one – the money involved was a relatively small amount and has been paid back. But, that it happened because, as Hill maintains, of a throwaway line in an email raises more questions than answers.

When asked by committee members if he held confidence in Hill, FAI President Paul Cooke admitted that it had been challenged by the events. Surely, then, the failure to come up with a new manager is even more damaging?

Ireland have two matches coming up, against Belgium and Switzerland. Both are friendlies and so a caretaker manager could be in charge, but such fixtures would be ideal for a new permanent boss to assess the situation before the competitive matches in June.

At the Oireachtas committee, FAI chairperson Tony Keohane said that those in charge would be, “discussing all the learnings from this.” It was ever thus.

New GAA President

When a new GAA President is appointed, there is usually a question as to what their legacy might be, but the reality doesn’t often work like that.

For one thing, the presidential term is three years and it would be asking a lot for any organisation to have such a potent strike-rate, especially one so small in global terms. And, of course, the president is just one person – any big achievements by the GAA have been collective efforts. The president is the person finishing the ball to the net, but only because of good teamwork to get it to them.

Being a former inter-county footballer, the new president, Jarlath Burns of Armagh, is well aware of the need for some remedial action to make the game more attractive and enjoyable again but his view is just one of many. GAA democracy has brought us to where we are now – any changes have been voted in at Congress – and it may not be easy to find something that suits everybody. Still, we hope he has some success in that regard.


The election to succeed Burns will take place in two years’ time, with the next incumbent spending a year as president-elect. With 2027 slated as the hoped-for date for integration between the GAA, Camogie Association and LGFA, the next president will be given their own gift-wrapped legacy of having overseen the great unification. What are the odds that a woman will be in charge?

All rosy in the rugby garden

In 2014, a president of a different sort – Barack Obama – wore a tan-coloured suit at a press conference discussing terrorism and came in for all sorts of criticism from right-wing commentators.

Apparently, it was “unpresidential” – those were certainly simpler times compared to what was to follow. The takeaway is that, when a lot of things are going badly, they won’t all receive due focus whereas, when things are going well, trivial matters will be amplified in the absence of proper things to criticise. So it is with the coverage of the Ireland rugby team this spring.

After the comfortable win over Italy, there was some talk around Jack Crowley’s place-kicking – last Saturday against Wales, he was five from five. A word used a lot with regard to the Wales performance was, “sloppy” – you’ll take that when it finishes 31-7.

The only pity for the neutral is that, if Ireland weren’t so dominant, it would be a very competitive championship, with everybody else having lost at least once and Italy unlucky not to beat France.

Still, let’s just enjoy the look of the table, and the plus-81 in the scoring difference tally, before the action resumes again with the trip to Twickenham next weekend.