Stephen Kenny’s last dance? 5 talking points as the Republic face Netherlands

By Sports Desk November 17, 2023

The Republic of Ireland’s painful Euro 2024 campaign reaches its climax in Amsterdam on Saturday evening as they complete their Group B fixtures with a tough test against the Netherlands.

The game may represent a dead rubber for Stephen Kenny’s side, who have only wins over minnows Gibraltar home and away to show for their efforts to date, but the Dutch can clinch second place behind France, who have already qualified for the finals, with a victory.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game.

The last waltz?

Stephen Kenny has divided opinion during his spell in charge of the Republic.

The former Dundalk boss has drastically overhauled the squad to introduce younger players while attempting to instil a more progressive brand of football.

However, his 28 competitive games to date have yielded just six wins – five of them against Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Armenia and Gibraltar home and away – and only one of note, a 3-0 Nations League victory over Scotland in June last year.

Kenny’s current contract is due to end after Tuesday’s friendly clash with New Zealand and few commentators expect it to be extended.

Jimmy, Jimmy

 

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A post shared by James McClean (@macajw)

 

If Kenny has ushered in the new during his time at the helm, there could be a touch of nostalgia in his final competitive game.

Wrexham’s James McClean announced last month that he would retire from international football at the end of the campaign and was initially included in the squad for only the New Zealand game.

However, injuries prompted Kenny to hand the 34-year-old a seat on the plane to Amsterdam, where he could win a 103rd – and penultimate – senior international cap.

Seagull or Parrott?

Much of the hope for a brighter future has been placed in the hands of 19-year-old Brighton striker Evan Ferguson, whose goal in last month’s 4-0 victory over Gibraltar was his third in eight senior appearances for his country.

However, the teenager has been nursing a back injury in the run-up to the game and with Luton’s Chiedozie Ogbene out with an ankle problem, Tottenham’s Troy Parrott could find himself in contention.

Now 21 and playing his club football in the Netherlands on loan at Excelsior, Parrott has three Eredivisie goals to his name in eight outings so far this season and was used as a substitute in the June fixtures against Greece and Gibraltar following his return to the squad.

Dutch courage

The Republic’s hopes of making it to Germany next summer were all but extinguished by a 2-1 home defeat by the Netherlands in September, when Cody Gakpo’s penalty and substitute Wout Weghorst’s second-half strike cancelled out Adam Idah’s early spot-kick.

But those with longer memories may take inspiration from a famous World Cup qualifier victory over the Dutch in September 2001 when Jason McAteer secured a 1-0 win at Lansdowne Road over a side which included Edwin van der Sar, Jaap Stam, Marc Overmars, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert and substitutes Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Pierre van Hooijdonk despite Gary Kelly’s dismissal.

Koeman’s back ache

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman has a rich array of talent from which to select, but his defensive options have been severely depleted by injuries.

Feyenoord’s Lutsharel Geetruida is the latest man to join a casualty list which already included Jeremie Frimpong, Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Micky van de Ven and Sven Botman, and while PSV Eindhoven’s Jordan Teze has been drafted in to replace Frimpong, the manager has not called on further back-up.

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