Stephen Kenny needs to get Ireland to a place where they are competitive right the way through the Euros qualifying campaign, according to former Republic of Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham.
Ireland were far from convincing in their 3-2 victory over Armenia in Dublin on Tuesday night. After going 2-0 up early in the match, the hosts seemed to drop off and allowed two quick goals around the 75th minute to set the sides level again.
It was a penalty for Robbie Brady one minute into injury time at the end of the game that saved Ireland's blushes and secured the victory.
Armenia looked poor throughout and were heading into the match with an abundance of backroom turmoil, however Ireland failed to capitalise on their opponents' woes and it almost cost them in the Nations League.
The reaction to the result on Tuesday has seen some suggest that Stephen Kenny is not up to the task of European qualification, however there are others who feel that he is on the right track.
Kenny Cunningham is a balanced mix of the two of those commenters. Speaking on Wednesday's Football Show, Cunningham dissected the match in the Aviva.
"You have to look at it and dissect it," Cunningham said. "I'd be worried if I was looking at that performance and thinking, 'that's the best we can do'. Then I'd be worried, I'd be tearing my hair out, but I'm not!
"I'm looking at the performances thinking there's actually a lot more to come. It doesn't need like a revolution. You're not asking players to do things that they're not actually capable of.
"I'm asking players to open up and punch a 15 yard pass into the centre forward's feet as opposed to a sideways or backwards pass.
"Players are more than capable of doing that. That encourages me, but of course the longer it goes that you don't see it you get a little bit more frustrated."
Ireland need to aim to be competitive
In March, Ireland will embark on another European Championships qualifying campaign. Many of Kenny's detractors have suggested that the Irish manager should not be at the helm for the duration of the campaign, as they feel that he cannot instil confidence in qualification for the next Euros.
However, Cunningham does not believe that confidence in qualifying is the goal for Stephen Kenny.
"I don't think you can say we're going to be confident," Cunningham said. "We're going to be third seed going into the group.
"We're going to have two seeded teams above us. Competitive, really, I think will be more appropriate. Can we be competitive? I think we can.
"The back three, that give me confidence. That kind of midfield three in terms of the attributes we need in those three central midfield roles, I think we have them."
Cunningham was involved in 72 matches for the Republic of Ireland as a player, between 1996 and 2004. In that time period, Ireland failed to qualify for two Euros competitions.
However, Cunningham believes that the goal of every Irish side should be to be competitive first and foremost, and then qualification will come.
"I never remember being in an Ireland team going into a qualifying campaign thinking, 'we are expected to qualify'," Cunningham said.
"We were always in that second or third tier, not expected [to win], but expected to be competitive. We kind of generally were.
"That's where we need to get. We need to be in a situation going into the last two games in the qualifying group for the European Championships knowing we've got a fighting chance to get through.
"We haven't quite been there under Stephen Kenny so far."
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