Stephen Kenny not dwelling on past as Ireland return to Faro focused on victory

Republic of Ireland coach Stephen Kenny insists he cannot allow himself to wonder what might have been after his sliding doors moment in Faro.

The 51-year-old will send his team into Euro 2024 qualifier battle with European minnows Gibraltar in the Algarve on Monday evening knowing their automatic qualification hopes are already over, and that even the chance of a wild card via the play-offs may be out of their grasp.

Just how different things could have been had his last visit to the Estadio Algarve, for a World Cup qualifier against Portugal in September 2021, not ended with a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo double which transformed a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory for the hosts – and established Ronaldo as international football’s leading scorer – is something upon which Kenny admits he has reflected since.

Kenny said: “You can’t dwell on things, but have I reflected on it? Of course.

“We were 1-0 ahead after 89 minutes and the game should be finished out. Cristiano Ronaldo has other ideas and the world record was on the line that night, so he was hugely motivated to break that.

“It was a very good performance that night. VAR intervened for an absolute cast-iron penalty to go 2-0 up in the second half, nailed-on penalty.

“That’s the way it goes. What ifs… there’s no point in complaining. You move on and that’s it.”

If we were to play any game, we’d play to win, any international game

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny

Ireland ultimately did not make it to last year’s World Cup finals, and neither will they be in Germany next summer unless their fortunes change markedly and they manage to secure a play-off spot and make it count.

There is even a complicated scenario in which they might be better off losing their final qualifier in the Netherlands next month depending on results elsewhere, although Kenny insists he is not even contemplating that.

He said: “No, it’s not something that’s really entered our heads. It’s not something that really we’d focus on. If we were to play any game, we’d play to win, any international game.

“We would just focus on Gibraltar tomorrow. It’s an international game that we want to win. We have to get a win under our belt tomorrow and I’m not really fixated on that scenario.”

Kenny, who confirmed that his contract would cover any play-off, has found himself in the firing line since Friday night’s 2-0 home defeat by Greece, although with World Cup finalists France and the Dutch also in Group B, the alarm bells starting ringing after their 2-1 reverse in Athens in June.

However, asked if he would resign should things go from bad to worse in Faro, he said: “I’m not considering resigning. My contact is to the end of the campaign and I will finish it.

“We want to finish the campaign strongly and we are very determined to do that. After that, it’s completely out of my control. I have no control over the rest.”

The Independent – Algarve