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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 20:34 GMT 21:34 UK
Kerr's balance sheet
By John Haughey

Brian Kerr was appointed in January 2003
The Republic of Ireland were ranked 14th in the world when Brian Kerr was appointed amid much fanfare in January 2003.

The Football Association of Ireland gave Kerr his chance after the Dubliner's impressive record with the country's underage squads.

As Kerr departs the post, the Irish are 21st in the Fifa ratings, which hardly rates as a plummet.

Indeed under Kerr, the Republic lost just four of 33 matches, winning 18 and with 18 clean sheets.

However, the bottom line is that Kerr's Irish side failed to qualify for both Euro 2004 and next year's World Cup Finals in Germany.

Examined further, the important statistics are not impressive.

Kerr's Irish side's most significant victory in a competitive game during his 32 months in charge was a win over 84th ranked Georgia in a European Championship qualifier.

In the eight matches that mattered against Switzerland, Russia, France and Israel, the Irish failed to claim a single victory.

In terms of the failure to qualify for Euro 2004, Kerr can justifiably point out that he took charge of a team that had lost their two opening qualifiers against Russia and the Swiss.

Without ever looking particularly convincing and minus Roy Keane, the Irish regrouped to claw themselves back into contention for the finals in Portugal.

The Irish campaign was ultimately undone by losing away and home leads against Israel

But the team flopped alarmingly in the crucial closing Euro qualifier against Switzerland in Basle which ended their hopes of progressing.

Roy Keane's return ensured renewed Republic optimism by the time the World Cup qualifiers started 14 months ago.

And Kerr's side made an excellent start to their campaign by claiming away draws against Switzerland and France in the opening burst of four qualifiers.

Indeed, the Roy Keane-inspired Irish had the better of the Stade de France game with John O'Shea missing a glorious chance to ensure a victory which would have been on a par with the famous 1988 and 1994 wins over England and Italy.

However, the Irish campaign was ultimately undone by losing away and home leads against Israel to squander four precious World Cup points.

Kerr's decision to replace injured striker Robbie Keane with defensive midfielder Graham Kavanagh when his side led 2-0 against the Israelis in Dublin was widely criticised after the game.

Things went from bad to worse for Kerr when Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram returned to the French fold ahead of last month's qualifier in Dublin.

Roy Keane has announced his retirement from international football
The new manager won't be able to call on Roy Keane

A touch of class from Thierry Henry, in an otherwise tight contest, earned France the three points.

Despite the defeat, wins over Cyprus and Switzerland would still have earned the Irish a play-off place but after a fortunate 1-0 win in Nicosia, Kerr's team exited following the tame 0-0 draw at home to the Swiss.

In terms of the balance sheet, player-wise the Republic are a weaker outfit than when Kerr took the job.

Roy Keane is now finally gone from the Republic scene for good and has been followed into international retirement by captain Kenny Cunningham and Stephen Carr.

Others will undoubtedly quit the Irish squad as well.

Minus the Manchester United skipper, the Republic's lack of midfield creativity in the recent games against Cyprus and Switzerland was embarrassing and it's difficult to see how that problem can be addressed in the short-term.

For the Republic to again become a force, the new boss will have to get the best out of Damien Duff and Robbie Keane - which Kerr was unable to do in recent months - and hope that he can unearth a competent central midfielder.

Suffice to say, the prospects don't look especially promising.





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