Lucky 13 For Kenny in the Nations League

Never let it be said that superstitions count for anything, particularly where the beautiful game is concerned, although there was no sorcery or as Ireland convincingly defeated Scotland in the UEFA Nations League. This time, the team coached by Stephen Kenny made their own fortune, working hard for a thoroughly deserved victory.

The fabled “luck of the Irish” has rarely if ever applied to our national team, and that was plain to see from their performances in this competition, founded in 2018 with the intention of replacing “meaningless” friendly matches. But having established the nefarious data point of not winning a single UEFA Nations League game in 12 attempts, of course, it would have to be the “unlucky for some” number 13 when that record finally ended.

Hopefully the fans won’t have another lengthy wait, before the next Nations League victory arrives. The besieged nation of Ukraine appears to be in a commanding position and nobody will begrudge their supporters the chance to enjoy something positive. But finishing second for Ireland is a reasonable aim with Armenia at home and Ukraine and Scotland away games ahead.

Let there be no mistake, this was a rejuvenated Republic of Ireland team in action, as the BBC succinctly described the win against Scotland, highlighting that one man in particular played the most important role. That man was Michael Obafemi, the Swansea City striker who enjoyed his chance to shine, appearing in the starting eleven for the first time and earning his fourth cap with the national team.

He will undoubtedly cherish 11th June 2022, the date of a monumental 3-0 triumph against Scotland, during which this potent young striker scored his first international goal, and contributed an assist. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Ireland looked much sharper and precise going forward, with Obafemi as part of a cohesive attacking unit. He was also one of five players drafted into the side by Stephen Kenny, who sought to shake things up.

Obafemi was involved in all three goals, either directly or indirectly. Although he played a relatively minor part in the opener, it was as part of an attack which earned his team a corner. After the initial corner by James McLean was poorly dealt with by the Scottish defence, the ball was bundled into the back of the net by Alan Browne for the 20th minute opener.

Just eight minutes later and as Ireland continued to pressure the visitors, Obafemi dazzled after collecting a loose ball in midfield. He showed great skill and vision to spot a defence-splitting run by Troy Parrott, who headed in a perfectly weighted ball in over the rival back line. Then came the icing on the cake for Obafemi, who rounded off his virtuoso display spinning on a pass, then exquisitely firing an unstoppable missile past the Scottish keeper.

Consistency required now by Ireland

Following what can only be described as an exceptional performance against Scotland, undoubtedly coming as a huge boost for morale amongst this group of players, the Irish team can hopefully build on this positive result. Having lost their opening two encounters, away in Armenia and then at home against Ukraine, finally ending their winless streak in the UEFA Nations League must be turned into positive momentum.

And speaking of consistency, it will be interesting to see how the bookmakers respond, whenever odds are published for Ireland’s upcoming matches. The best place to start will be via the latest SBO betting sites guide, packed with honest and reliable reviews.

Throughout his tenure as manager of the Ireland, Kenny has been working hard to find the missing ingredients, willing to try new players and provide opportunities. Given the performance of those who participated against Scotland, it could well be that at long last, Kenny now has now found the winning formula, which is certainly encouraging if accompanied by positive results.

Words: Adrian O’Leary

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