The Republic of Ireland have gone 15 competitive games without a win after Saturday evening’s 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan.
Current manager Stephen Kenny has presided over 10 Nations League fixtures and World Cup qualifiers either side of the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final defeat by Slovakia without a single three-point haul, extending a trend which dates back to the latter stages of predecessor Mick McCarthy’s reign.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at Ireland’s blank run.
Kenny has been in charge for 15 matches in total and has recorded just a single win, a 4-1 friendly victory over minnows Andorra in June. His 11 competitive games have resulted in four draws and seven defeats, one of them on penalties in Slovakia after a 90-minute stalemate. It is a sequence, however, which extends back to McCarthy’s second spell, which saw him win three of his first four competitive fixtures – two of them narrowly against Gibraltar – but none of the final four.
There has been a significant turnaround in personnel since Ireland last tasted competitive victory, a 2-0 win over Gibraltar in Dublin in June 2019. Only Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy and James McClean who started that night did so against Azerbaijan, while Conor Hourihane and Callum Robinson were used from the bench. Kenny’s starting XI included two 19-year-olds – keeper Gavin Bazunu and striker Troy Parrott – 20-year-old Adam Idah and fellow frontman Aaron Connolly, 21, and 22-year-old midfielder Jayson Molumby.
The near misses
Kenny’s misfortune is that his team’s most impressive performances have come in heroic defeat against stronger opposition. They lost 3-2 in Serbia having earlier seen strong penalty appeals waved away, and led 1-0 in Portugal having once again been denied what looked like a cast-iron spot-kick before Cristiano Ronaldo’s late double snatched victory from their grasp.
The low points
Duffy’s 87th-minute equaliser against Azerbaijan, ranked 112th in the world, spared Ireland even greater embarrassment, but their nadir came in March when Gerson Rodrigues’ lone strike secured a famous 1-0 win for Luxembourg – currently 96th in FIFA’s ranking table – at the Aviva Stadium.
FT | Ireland 1-1 Azerbaijan Hugely frustrating night as Shane Duffy's late equaliser secures a point in front of a brilliant Aviva Stadium support 🙌#COYBIG | #WeAreOne | #IRLAZE
Perhaps the crux of the matter. A return of just seven goals in those 15 games goes a long way towards explaining the Republic’s difficulties. Four of them have been scored by defenders – Matt Doherty, John Egan and Duffy, who has two – and five inside the last five minutes of games. Strikers Idah and Connolly are yet to find the back of the net, while Troy Parrott’s two goals to date came in the friendly win over Andorra.