James’s 2022 review: Mixed year but a bright one ahead
New to the Green Machíne writing team, James gives his thoughts and expectations following an eventful 2022 in Irish football.
2022 was a year of ups and downs for the men’s national team. From a scintillating win against Scotland at a raucous Aviva Stadium in June, to two highly creditable draws against Belgium and Ukraine, to grinding out unconvincing wins against Lithuania, Armenia, and Malta, to the low of losing away to Armenia.
Consistency of results has been lacking in Stephen Kenny’s reign in charge of the boys in green, yet the Manager must be given credit for his implementation of a possession-based style of play, an overhaul of the squad and the introduction of bright young prospects.
There is genuine quality between the sticks, with three exceptionally good goalkeepers competing for the number one jersey (Gavin Bazunu, Caoimhín Kelleher, and Mark Travers). Nathan Collins has looked an assured presence at the back. Josh Cullen has been wonderfully steady and consistent in the middle of the park and Michael Obafemi and Chiedozie Ogbene have created genuine excitement up front.
Add into the mix the conveyer belt of new talent on the horizon, such as Evan Ferguson, Joe Hodge, Tom Cannon, Rocco Vata and Andrew Moran. Dare I say it – the future looks bright.
One hallmark of Kenny’s spell in charge has been his lack of luck and the draw for Euro 2024 qualification has dealt him a cruel hand. Paired with heavyweights France and Holland and a tricky Greek side, automatic qualification looks to be a tall order.
The consensus is that this campaign is the day of reckoning for the Manager and with the fanbase split between those who back Kenny and those who agitate for a change, a good start is crucial for him. The national team can spring the occasional surprise against the big boys, and Kenny will be hoping that that will be the case when the World Cup Finalists come to town on 27th March.
2023 will be a momentous year for the Women’s National Team as they compete in their first ever World Cup (held in Australia and New Zealand in July and August of next summer). Having never previously reached the finals of a major competition, the tournament will mark the 50th anniversary of the Women’s National Association of Ireland.
The catalyst for this achievement was the appointment of Vera Pauw. Ireland steadily improved since her appointment in 2019 and after narrowly missing out on reaching the play offs for UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, qualification for the World Cup was sealed after Amber Barrett’s momentous goal in the play-off victory over Scotland.
Excitement is building ahead of the finals and as ever with the Ireland National teams, excitement and drama is guaranteed!
Men’s player of the year: Josh Cullen
Women’s player of the year: Katie McCabe
Manager of the Year: Vera Pauw
Goal of the Year: Nathan Collins v Ukraine (14.06.22)
Moment of the Year: Ireland WNT qualification for the World Cup
Breakout player for 2023 prediction: Evan Ferguson
Women’s WC prediction for Ireland: Quarter Finals
Euros Qualification prediction: Third in Group B
James Agnew, The Green Machíne Podcast