Stephen Kenny admits Republic of Ireland ‘needed to win’ against Greece

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Beleaguered Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny declined to discuss his future after a deeply damaging 2-0 home defeat by Greece finally ended hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2024.

Ireland were decidedly second-best at the Aviva Stadium and will head for Gibraltar on Monday evening having taken just three points from their first six qualifiers.

However, asked about his tenure, Kenny said: “I’m not going to use this to speak about that.

“Ultimately of course we’re disappointed. We knew it was a group of death, tough games.

“France, Holland, really tough. We had epic games against both of them.

“You shouldn’t be losing at home to Greece. They are a good team, better than people think they are, technically very good with good qualities.

“We needed to win tonight, I know that.”

Kenny had gone into the game under pressure, but with the Football Association of Ireland having indicated he would remain in charge until the end of the campaign whatever happened.

Asked this week if the results in these two fixtures could change the association’s stance, chief executive Jonathan Hill said: “No, I don’t think so.

“We’re committed to that process of reviewing the whole of the qualification process in November.”

Whether that is still the case after a dark night at the Aviva Stadium remains to be seen.

The brutal truth is that Kenny’s 27 competitive matches at the helm have yielded just five victories – against Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Scotland, Armenia and Gibraltar – with only a 3-0 Nations League success against the Scots in June 2022 backing the manager’s claims of progress.

He had made qualification for next summer’s finals – they still have a notional, but unlikely chance of securing a play-off spot – his goal when he was first appointed, and Ireland’s abject failure to even establish themselves in the race is a damning indictment.

Greece, who had set out on the campaign knowing they and the Republic would realistically be competing for third place and a possible challenge to big two France and the Netherlands, were far superior in Dublin as they backed up their June win in Athens with an even more impressive display.

First-half goals from Giorgos Giakoumakis and Giorgos Masouras did the damage, but did not fully reflect the comfort with which they banked the three points which took them to 12 from their opening six games, nine more than Kenny’s men.

I think we’re going to be in a better position to qualify

The Ireland boss said: “It is definitely a game that we would have wanted to win and it’s a disappointing result to lose at home to Greece.”

Opposite number Gus Poyet, who reacted angrily to accusations that he had used Irish spies to plot victory in the reverse fixture, was delighted with his team’s efforts in Dublin, which left them three points ahead of Monday’s opponents the Netherlands having played a game more.

He said: “I think we’re learning, I think we’re growing up.

“I think the players are understanding that to qualify for the Euros and then to perform in the Euros, we still need a little bit more, and I think Monday is going to be massive.

“There are plenty of things that we need to do well on Monday and depending on that, how much we grow up as a team, I think we’re going to be in a better position to qualify.

“But I have to say, we have put ourselves there with our victories, with our work somehow, and if you’d asked me before we started when I was in Frankfurt for the draw and you said to me that we would be here now with this chance to qualify, I would have taken it.”

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