Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill believes that Stephen Kenny has ‘all the attributes’ to become an international manager, but warned the Dundalk boss that it’s a big step up from domestic football.
O’Neill has walked the path from the League of Ireland to international management, leading Shamrock Rovers to European football and back-to-back titles before taking charge of Northern Ireland.
The former Rovers has been an unqualified success as Northern Ireland manager, leading them to Euro 2016 as they steadily climbed the FIFA international rankings.
While O’Neill prepares to take on the Republic of Ireland in an international friendly before looking ahead to Euro 2020 qualification, Kenny, the man who succeeded him at Shamrock Rovers, has just won his fourth league title in five years.
Kenny’s domestic success and his European exploits with Dundalk have lead to calls for him to be given a chance at international level and while O’Neill insists that it’s a big jump, he believes that the Kenny has what it talks.
"When you go from club football to international football regardless, it’s difficult," O’Neill said.
"You don’t really know what to expect and even speaking to managers with much more experience than me, they found a lot of difficulty coming into international football just because of the nature of the job.
"Club football dictates your schedule, the games along dictate your schedule and how you use your time and prepare your team. International football is much more different from that.
"I think the biggest thing that I found is that you’re stepping up and having to manage players of a much higher calibre. The likes of Steven [Davis] and Jonny [Evans] who are Premier League players all their careers, from managing players who were obviously not at that level at Shamrock Rovers.
"I think that would be a challenge that Stephen would have to meet. I think he’s done extremely well at Dundalk, it’s an amazing job he’s done there with the success that they’ve had and the European thing as well has been great for them."
Kenny’s short spell in charge of Shamrock Rovers ended in failure but he followed that up with the most impressive job of his career, turning Dundalk into a domestic and European force, and O’Neill believes that proves his ability as a manager.
"He’s proven himself to be a top manager," the Northern Ireland boss said. "He’s come back from disappointment as well because obviously at Shamrock Rovers he didn’t get much opportunity, I think he was only six months in the job and that came to an end.
"I think the job he’s done at Dundalk has been phenomenal and for me he’s certainly got all the attributes to work outside of the League of Ireland and, who knows, international level as well."