Ken’s 2022 review: A tale of two Ireland teams
Looking back on the 2022 season for Irish soccer it was a tale of two different emotions, as the reality for the Men’s team hit home and the euphoria of the women senior team qualifying for their first world made me question even harder when we will the men’s team qualify for big tournament again.
The stats for the year played 10 won 4 drawn 2 and lost 4 a win of 40% but that doesn’t really they the story. The March window started off relatively well with the acrobatic goal from Ogbene the highlight of a decent performance against a slightly weakened Belgium team which was followed by a rather anonymous performance against Lithuania where a late late strike from Troy Parrot got the win. The general consensus was that Kennys team was learning how to get the win without playing well and the optimism still continued.
Into the June window, and the old failings soon returned. A dire performance away against Aremenia and a 1–0 loss to kick of the four game window. Then a slightly better performance against an under strength Ukrainian team which ultimately ended in a 1–0 lost and the “Kenny out” brigade was in full cry from ex international players and pundits.
At this stage I didn’t really know what to expect in the Scotland game but a few injuries and Kenny stumbled upon a new midfield 3 Cullen, Molumby and Knight the holy trinity I heard them called and new strike partnership in Parrot and Obafemi.
This game could have easily gone a different way only for the Scottish been so wasteful in the first 20 minutes however we rode our luck especially Shane Duffy and mange to score through Alan Browne and then that wonderful assist from Obafemi to set up Parrot before the the Goal of the Irish season from Obafemi a sumptuous strike form outside the box which beat the keeper all ends up.
Even though some might argue for Nathan Collins goal against the Ukraine this was for me the goal of the season. Pride and hope was restored in this game especially with the performance of the new look midfield and new strike partnership and of course the rise of Nathan Collins who’s stock was only going to be enhanced more by the stunning goal and performance he gave against the Ukraine in the 1–1 draw which ended our 4 game window in June and left us with a fighting chance going into our last few games of the nation league campaign.
September arrives and it’s Scotland away and poor miss by Troy Parrot leaves us with a 2–1 loss to Scotland in which the performance in the main was positive and then Armenia at home 2–0 up and for the most part all looking rosie before some inexcusable mistakes by experiences midfielders ie, Hendrick and Hourihane and it’s 2–2 going into added time when we get a fairly soft penalty, which a returning Robbie Brady sticks away and this performance again leads to more questions about Kenny’s ability to get the best out this group of players.
On the flip side, the Women’s Team thrilled against Finland which they duly won 1–0 thanks to goal from substitute Lilly Agg and a 1–0 away win in Slovakia in this window would put them into the play offs against Scotland.
The Game against Scotland in October was an intense affair and a moment of magic from another substitute something which Kenny could learn a bit about from Vera Pauw when she introduced Amber Barrett. It was a fitting moment that the Girl from Donegal would score the winning goal after the tragedy which had accurred in home town a week or so earlier may they rest in peace.
An Irish senior team has qualified for a World Cup how good does that sound and for me the Irish manager of the year is Vera Pauw. Irish womens player of the year I am going against the grain here by picking Denise O’Sullivan, what the men’s team would give for a midfielder of her quality extremely composed and technical so good a pleasure to watch and yes I know the majority will go with Katie and she had an excellent season this is just my opinion.
I would like to say Tom Mohan and Jim Crawford should get hourable mention for manager of the year but I do still think the u21 should have qualified and I question some of Jim’s decision around squad selections and team selections. On the u21 team some great talents there hopefully some will transition to the senior team in time. Conor Coventry was the u21 player of the year for me and him and Gavin Kilkenny were the stand out players in that group during this campaign.
On to November and the last two games for the men’s senior team and for me the departure of John Eustace really started to show as we had got through September but these games really reminded of the start of the Kenny era where we just passed the ball around the back with out pace or direction none of the centre backs looking to break the line and eventually the ball would end up at Gavins feet to be dispatched long.
This window always was going to be negative as in September after the 3–2 win against Armenia when Kenny was asked about his plans for the friendlys and he said he want continuity and to work on the defensive errors.
The squad announcement for these games was met with disappointment in who was left out mainly one Joe Hodge who can get Premier League minutes but none in a friendly. A plus is Evan Ferguson who plays in a position where we are not exactly light on options but you ask any knowledgeable Irish soccer fan and they will tell you about our lack of midfield depth and talent.
How did these two friendlys go I hear you ask badly in a nutshell. A 2–1 loss to Norway and 1–0 win in Malta where both performance made me realise the reality of where we are at and left me praying my Irish senior player of the year Josh Cullen does not get injured or the new Euro Campaign could be hard going indeed.
Hopefully the green shouts from the weekend will keep coming with Joe Hodge, Tom Cannon, Evan Ferguson and Andrew Moran making impacts in the premiership and Rocca Vata at Celtic there might just be hope and optimism in the future and reality might be much improved by this time next year.
Ken Brigdale, The Green Machíne Podcast