Luke Brennan: A New Ambition


From top: striker Adam Idah; Luke Brennan

Anyone else out there been intoxicated by football recently? I had the giddy fits watching Portugal v Ireland. Pride running through my veins like wine. Ireland’s play is now something of a tightrope act, tactically short, passing the ball out from the back. Teasing the opposition out of formation, using the ball as bait. Would you like the ball? It’s right here.

Ireland’s shaky reputation and band of teenage additions adding to the opposition’s hunger. Come one, sure, take the ball, if you really want it. It’s not good for the heart, but by jeepers does it make good telly.

Steven Kenny covers teenagers in lamb’s blood, then sends them into the lion’s den. When he sent Gavin Bazuna into the cave, an early penalty save made it look like he came out wearing king-of-the-lions Ronaldo as a head-dress, only for Ronaldo to spring to life and show why he’s king of the jungle, with two late goals. Hearts were broken, but swollen with what seemed possible.

Then young Andrew Omobamidele had some sort of fit on the pitch against Serbia, a bit like the hulk changing form, or when Slaine had one of his warp spasms. He turned into something resembling Paul McGrath when he played Maradona off the park in the 1987 Rest of World vs Football league game. It was a thing of beauty, with more to come.

We also saw the potential of Adam Idah over the three matches. Strength, close control, confidence. An able internationalist, who just needs the players around him to reach his level and provide good service. This is the other part of Steven Kenny’s strategy; when the opposition do take the bait, move the ball forward with pace and accuracy. This has not yielded results as of yet, but when it does, it will be the high octane counterpart which makes the tightrope act all the more impressive.

So we have the 3 new young international standard players mentioned above, you can also add the injured Jason Knight and Dara O’Shea, both have been sent over the coals by Steven Kenny this year and performed admirably. So, 5 new international standard players with an average age of 20 this year. Bearing in mind that the most valuable young new player (Nathan Collins, bought by Burnley for EUR12M) has not made the pitch through injury, you’d have to say it has been an excellent year.

To appreciate how good the year has been, you would have to look past the results. If you can, you would see that repeating this production for another two years (and it seems the stocks are there in Irish underage players) would yield 15 international players who have proven themselves to be of the requisite standard, average age, 22. You’d have to agree, that if we had started this World cup qualifying with such a luxury, we could have different ambitions entirely.

I know it’s not as simple as that, but it’s the heart of what is required. We’ll never have the money to create facilities like they do in the UK, or have the influence to turn heads the way double agent Rice got turned. But I do believe Ireland, at it’s heart has something special to say. Ireland is a little bit special, the way freckles on your arm are a bit special, or the way the colour on the rocks in Connemara are a little bit special. Sport is an honest way to explain it to the world.

An experienced team is a requirement of giving a good account of yourself, showing the world what you’ve got.

What if we entered the qualification for the 2030 World cup with a squad of players, average age 26, with 5 years of international football under their belt?

Ireland for the World cup 2030, that’s all I’m sain’.

Luke Brennan is an Ireland born, Portugal-based writer and entrepreneur.


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23 thoughts on “Luke Brennan: A New Ambition

      1. Bertie blenkinsop

        The players are part of the issue. Look at the difference Tuchel made to Chelsea post Lampard.
        Kenny is so out of his depth it’s laughable. I can only assume he was cheap.

        1. GiggidyGoo

          Bertie – Kenny is as good as, if not better than:

          – Stephen Staunton
          – Johnny Giles
          – Brian Kerr

          What I saw was a more attacking Irish team, little of the negative back passing, a younger team that will go from strength to strength, and no fear of the likes of Portugal/Serbia.

          Kenny needs to be let build this team, and not be hounded out by the likes of Liam Brady and Co.

          1. just millie

            At the risk of disagreeing with my erstwhile Bertie, I think GG has a point. While I’m reserving judgement on Kenny, I think any other manager would face the same challenges because our team is not up to scratch. Years and years of FAI mismanagement, lack of investment into our own youth football and LOI, and an over reliance on the ‘Granny rule’ has led to this.

            I think it’s at least 10 years before we see a decent Irish squad again, but anyone who expected a miracle from Stephen Kenny was destined to be let down.

          2. Junkface

            Yep, Staunton doesn’t count. He was so bad most people erased his manager role from memory. Pity, as he was a decent player for us.

          3. GiggidyGoo

            He was a manager – he was ‘the gaffog’. Of course he counts.
            We can go back to Trappatoni’s negative way of playing too, to do a comparison.

            Kenny needs the space to build the team. If he’s not given that, then you’ll have a change of manager every 18 months / 2 years because no manager will be given the chance.

            The crowd reaction the other night should give a clue.

        2. Slave to the Rhythm

          100%. He is learning on the job, it is great that some young lads are now getting a chance but why can’t they get an experienced hand in to guide them properly? I just don’t get it at all and his entire appointment process was a farce, a stroke and insulting to Mick McCarthy as well.

    1. Slave to the Rhythm

      Luke Brennan is an Ireland born, Portugal-based writer and entrepreneur who knows f all about football.

  1. scottser

    until the grass roots game gets the funding and development it deserves, we’ll only ever have a squad full of players on the fringes of 2nd and 3rd tier clubs. not only that but we should look elsewhere than the premier league to send our players to. literally, you stand a better chance of being a professional footballer if you grow up in any other european country because we don’t have the infrastructure:

    1. goldenbrown


      the Irish football situation is currently an inverted triangle with the men’s senior team at the bottom pointy bit

      they have to fix the local game and put the money and effort in to challenge the gaa and rugby for talent and customers

      as for Kenny he’s a decent man but no Svengali, it can’t be just about his willingness to throw the young lads he knows of into the mixer and hope…of course he’ll have a couple of hits because there IS some talent there and the back room seems to be doing a good job but that can’t be all there is

  2. Clampers Outside

    I liked your piece :)

    I like the forward looking positivity, and the push back against the usual rantinfs about Kenny. Those rants are the same for all the time. Kenny is genuinely putting young lads in it, and that’s gotta be a good start and a thumbs up from me :)

    That said, I know as much about football as a member of the Amahuaca people’s of the southeastern Amazon basin in Peru.

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