FUTURE Republic of Ireland senior manager, Stephen Kenny is set to return as Derry City boss - for one night only!
The Ireland U21 supremo will make a poignant return to his managerial roots to oversee an elite Derry team for the Ryan McBride Soccer Sixes held in honour of the former Candy Stripes captain who passed away suddenly two years ago.
Kenny’s involvement is a major coup for this year’s Ryan McBride Foundation event, given that he is currently the Republic of Ireland under 21 manager and will have the honour of succeeding Mick McCarthy as senior boss in 2020.
Kenny has enjoyed a decorated career in the League of Ireland where he became one of the most successful managers ever, securing five league titles, three FAI Cups and six league cups as well as a First Division title with Derry.
A host of former domestic and international stars are scheduled to line out at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on May 5th 2019 for what is gearing up to be a sell-out event, sponsored by sportswear giants O’Neills.
Kenny said he had no hesitation in accepting a request from the Foundation to manage the Derry squad comprised of Dermot O’Neill, Eddie McCallion, Peter Hutton, Barry Molloy, Gareth McGlynn, Ruaidhri Higgins, Gary Beckett, Kevin McHugh, Stephen O’Flynn and current Derry City assistant, Kevin Deery.
Many of the Derry squad played under Kenny and were part of Derry City’s European adventure in 2006 which came to an end against French giants PSG despite Derry holding the French stars to a draw in the Brandywell.
The Dubliner, who managed Derry City FC from 2004-2006 and 2008-2011, is credited with John Quigg for plucking Ryan McBride from junior football and Kenny gave the Brandywell man his full senior debut against Shamrock Rovers in July 2011.
Kenny admitted it would be both a proud and emotional return for next month’s event organised by the Foundation set up in McBride’s memory, starring Derry City (defending champions), Glasgow Celtic, and PFA Ireland Select teams.
McBride had scored against Kenny's Dundalk in a 3-1 win for Derry less than a week before passing away unexpectedly in his sleep at the family home on March 19th 2017, aged 27.
Kenny led one of the many heartfelt tributes to the former Derry captain in the wake of his sudden death, describing him as “a ferociously brave player, the bravest I've ever seen on a football pitch”.
“He was every fan's favourite player and a great captain of Derry City”, recalled Kenny.
Speaking this week ahead of the Ryan McBride Soccer Sixes which will be followed by a gala dinner in the City Hotel on May 5th, Kenny said it was an honour to be involved both on the pitch and at the evening event which will feature a Q&A with representatives from the participating teams.
“Ryan and the valued role he played in all aspects of his life will be foremost in our thoughts as we continue to support the work of the Foundation established in his memory,” he added.
Former Glasgow Celtic and Aston Villa legend Stiliyan Petrov has been announced as one of the top flight names on the Celtic team which will be led by the “Derry Pele” Paddy McCourt and includes other fan favourites Jackie McNamara, Tom Boyd, Alan Stubbs, Rab Douglas, Mark Wilson, Simon Donnelly, and Mark Burchill.
Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills, lead sponsors, said excitement was now building for the event. “We are delighted at the latest news that Stephen Kenny – widely regarded as one of the best managers in Irish footballing history - will be involved with our event on 5th May, together with the former domestic and international stars announced to date.”
An action-packed day of family friendly activities will kick off in the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium at 1pm on May 5th. Tickets are £25 adult, £10 child, £60 family of four. Tickets for the Gala Ball at the City Hotel with Scouse impressionist and online star Darren Farley providing the after-dinner entertainment, are £60/table £600.
Tickets are available through the Ryan McBride Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.