Roy Keane isn’t overly enthused by Stephen Kenny’s Ireland tenure, insisting the current boss is doing just ‘okay’ ahead of a decision on his contract.
The former Ireland captain and assistant manager was asked about Kenny’s 18-month spell during his appearance as special guest at a fundraiser for the Kerry Hospice that accumulated €72,500.
Ireland under Kenny have won four of their 20 matches and were eliminated from this year’s World Cup qualifiers with three matches left.
“I think they’re doing okay,” said Keane about Ireland under Kenny before adding acerbically: “And if okay is fine for everybody else in Ireland, good luck to them.
“Along the line at top level football, I thought winning was part of that package. Maybe I’m wrong.
“Football is about opinions. He (Kenny) has the Irish press on his side, especially the Dublin lot, but at the top level it is about getting over the line and winning games.”
Keane said he knew his and O’Neill’s time in the FAI’s employment was up in late 2018 once Denis O’Brien ended his decade-long subvention of the management’s salaries.
“To change Martin O’Neill as manager to Mick McCarthy is something I still find bizarre,” he said of the switch by then chief executive John Delaney.
“How many campaigns has Stephen Kenny had? He took over from Mick McCarthy and had the Euros play-off, the Nations League campaign and the World Cup qualifiers.
“Young players deserve time but that wasn’t the reality for Martin O’Neill and myself, nor Brian Kerr.”
The FAI board are due to meet on Monday to discuss the contract situation of Kenny, whose current deal ends next July midway through the Nations League campaign.
On his five-year Ireland tenure, Keane rejected suggestions that he and O’Neill were too slow in wedding English stars Jack Grealish and Declan Rice to the cause.
Grealish played up to U21 level but reviewed his commitment after being ignored by O’Neill for a trip to America in 2014 for a couple of friendlies. He jumped the fence to his homeland within a year.
Rice did line out at senior level three times, only to defect to England before a competitive game against Wales in September 2016 that would have prevented him from switching.
Keane scoffed at claims that the wise strategy was to cap Rice, who has become an England regular, in the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Moldova.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe over there,” Keane joked when put out by the question from MC Matt Cooper at the Ballygarry Hotel in Tralee.
“Does anybody think that a player should be given a cap for Ireland to play so he doesn’t declare for another country? Well, that’s the wrong reason for somebody to play for Ireland.
“You can’t throw out caps willy-nilly to tie players down. I had Jack at Aston Villa and Declan was in our squad but to me they were always English. It doesn’t mean that they couldn’t play for Ireland.
“I never had that feeling about them. You can’t bribe or blackmail players. It wasn’t a case of myself and Martin up in the room, saying ‘we’ll play them tomorrow so they’re stuck with us’. That wouldn’t be fair on the people of Ireland. It’s the most stupid argument you can have.”
Meanwhile, Keane said his former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot complain at being sacked as manager last Sunday.
“Ole had three seasons as manager of Manchester United and we’re dealing with top level sport here,” he reasoned. “Football is about moments and last year he had those to get over the line in tight matches.
“You’re not at Manchester United to beat West Bromwich Albion and Burnley. It’s about the big matches like Ireland against the All Blacks. There’s a big difference.
“Last season, United got beaten in the Europa League final against Villareal, lost the FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City and a one-legged League Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
“You need a moment that can kick a manager’s career on. Ole came up just a little bit short.”
Keane regaled the crowd of 400 at the venue, receiving further acclaim when his last Manchester United jersey, worn in the 2018 Liam Miller testimonial at Thomond Park, was auctioned for €12k.
“Don’t worry, it will definitely be my final United shirt,” said the 50-year-old former Red Devils skipper, accompanied by typical dry humour.