Stephen Kenny: 'Players want to play for him' says NI international Paddy McCourt

Stephen Kenny
Kenny won four league titles in five years with Dundalk

Stephen Kenny's rise to Republic of Ireland manager will not shock anyone who played under him during his time in the League of Ireland, says former player Paddy McCourt.

Before leading Dundalk to unprecedented domestic and European success, Kenny had two stints at Derry City, signing McCourt from Shamrock Rovers in 2005.

The Dubliner officially became Republic manager on Saturday, succeeding Mick McCarthy following the postponement of the Euro 2020 play-offs.

Unlike many of his predecessors Kenny, 48, made his managerial name almost entirely in the local game.

Having won a league title with Dublin side Bohemians, he moved to Derry where he brought them to a memorable European tie with Paris St-Germain in 2006.external-link

However his greatest success came with Dundalk, where they won four league titles in five seasons, made it to the brink of Champions League qualification and became the first Irish side to register a European group stage victory.

"It's very difficult to touch on what it is that he's so good at," McCourt, who went on to join Celtic and win 18 caps for Northern Ireland, told BBC Radio Foyle.

"When you're in his company and when you're playing in his team environment, there's always a feel-food factor in the dressing room.

"The players all love him, they want to work for him.

"He's got a special gift of bringing a group of players together and getting them all to pull in one direction."

Paddy McCourt
Derry native McCourt signed for his hometown club under Kenny before going on to win 18 caps for Northern Ireland

Kenny takes up his new role amid uncertain times, with the Republic's Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the allure of playing two group games in Dublin should they achieve qualification, there is pressure on the new boss to get it right at the first time of asking.

Creating an affinity with his players is something that Kenny has seemingly managed to do with great success in his previous jobs.

"He's a good person, first and foremost," said McCourt.

"He's meticulous in his planning and has a certain style of play that works for him, with his full backs very important to how he plays.

"I wouldn't put him down as a shouter, he's a motivator. He's very good at saying the right things at the right time.

"He is also very forthcoming in his praise, which players, especially in the modern day, respond to."

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