Brian Kerr in Profile

Brian Kerr (Credit: Limerick Leader)

This week Brian Kerr made a surprise return to the Ireland SMT. The 71 year old will act as Technical Advisor to Interim Head Coach John O’Shea’s Management team for the upcoming friendlies against Belgium and Switzerland this month. Here we profile one of Irish footballs most enduring characters.

Dublin native Brian Kerr’s football love affair began at Crumlin United. Concentrating on coaching from an early age, he took on his first coaching role at the club. Kerr was then invited by Liam Tuohy to manage Shamrock Rovers B side in 1974, during which time he also managed Irish Technical Schools team (Kerr originally worked as a Laboratory Technician at UCD). After a stint playing for Bluebell United, he was reserve team manager at Shelbourne in 1978 and was then appointed Manager of the club in 1983. The following season he moved to Home Farm.

Kerr coached under Tuohy with the Irish youth side that reached the World Cup Finals in 1985. After resigning in April 1986, he was appointed Assistant Manager of Drogheda United (under Mick Lawlor) but left following Lawlor’s resignation in November 1986.

Kerr in charge at St Pats (Credit: The Irish Times)

In December 1986, Kerr was appointed manager of his beloved St Pats Athletic. As a fan of Pats, this was a dream come true for Kerr. Within three months he had won his first trophy (the Leinster Senior Cup) and St Pats first trophy in a decade. In 1990 he delivered the league title to the Inchicore club. Their first since 1956. In 1992 with the club facing liquidation, Kerr was among a group of investors who helped save the club from extinction and in 1996 he won his second league title.

With Damien Duff in 1999 (Credit: balls.ie)

In December 1996 Kerr shocked St. Pats fans by resigning to become technical director of the FAI. As part of his technical director remit, Kerr managed the Ireland underage sides from under 16 to under 20 level. In the 1997 World Youth Championship Ireland finished third. The following year Kerr guided Ireland to victory at both the under-16 and under-18 European Championships. Kerr’s reputation was growing due to his stellar work with the underage teams, and the Senior men’s job was soon to come calling.

Kerr is appointed Ireland Manager (Credit: rte.ie)

Ireland’s qualifying campaign for the 2004 European Championships in Portugal started off with two defeats. Mick McCarthy resigned and Kerr was named as his successor on 26th January 2003. Kerr won his first game in charge of Ireland (beating Georgia 2-1, with a winner scored by Gary Doherty). The next match against Albania in Tirana ended 0-0. On 7th June 2003, in Kerr’s first competitive home match, Ireland secured a 2-1 win. Next up was Georgia at Lansdowne Road and a 2-0 win with goals from Doherty and Robbie Keane. Ireland now had 10 points out of 12 and renewed optimism that qualification was a possibility. Russia came to Dublin on 6th September and a tough game ended in a one all draw. That meant that an Ireland win in Basel against Switzerland was crucial for qualification, however Ireland went down 2-0 due to goals from Hakan Yakin and Alexander Frei. The Swiss topped the group and Russia secured the play-off spot.

In charge of the Ireland SMT (Credit: rte.ie)

Despite missing out on qualification, hopes were high that Ireland would have sufficient quality to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Ireland was drawn in a group containing Switzerland (again), France, Israel, Cyprus, and the Faroe Islands. The campaign had a winning start with a 3-0 home win over Cyprus (with goals from Clinton Morrison, Andy Reid, and Robbie Keane). Four days later Ireland secured a point in a 1-1 draw in Basel against the Swiss. Ireland then faced a daunting away trip to France. Injuries and suspension had deprived the French of some of their key players (including Zidane, Vieira and Makelele). Ireland turned in an impressive performance to come away with a highly creditable 0-0 draw. Five days later Ireland followed up with a routine 2-0 win over the Faroe Islands at Lansdowne Road. Next up were Israel in Tel Aviv. Clinton Morrison put Ireland in front just before half time, but then they seemed to sit off their opponents and Abbas Souan’s last minute equaliser ensured the game finished 1-1. Ireland had dropped two valuable points due to their lack of adventure in the second half. In the return game against Israel in Dublin, Ireland raced into a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Ian Harte and Robbie Keane. Yet again though they eased off and the Israelis hit back through goals from Avi Yehiel and Avi Nimni to ensure that the match finished 2-2. This was a hammer blow to hopes of qualification. Home wins against Switzerland and France were required if qualification was to be secured. After another 2-0 win against the Faroes in Torshavn, Ireland welcomed France to Lansdowne Road on 7th September 2005. France had all their big guns back for the game and were now an even more formidable opponent. Ireland battled gamely but ultimately lost 1-0 due to a wonder strike from Thierry Henry. This meant that Ireland had to win both of their remaining two games (away to Cyprus and at home to Switzerland) while hoping that other results went their way. A Stephen Elliott goal gave Ireland a 1-0 win over Cyprus. However, in the final, must win game against Switzerland the match finished 0-0 and Ireland had again failed to qualify for a major tournament under Kerr.

After criticism for his conservative approach in key games, Kerr was now out of contract, and despite his wish to get a new deal and continue in the role, the FAI announced on 18th October 2005 that Kerr’s contract would not be renewed. He was replaced by Steve Staunton.

In March 2007 Kerr returned to the League of Ireland in a Director of Football role with St Pats. This role included technical support to the management team and scouting. On 19th May 2008 Kerr announced his resignation with immediate effect.

Kerr at the Faroes (Credit the42.ie)

On 6th April 2009, Kerr was announced as the Head Coach of the Faroe Islands. His first game in charge was at home against Serbia, which resulted in a 2-0 loss. Apart from four players who played in Denmark and another in Iceland, all other players that Kerr had at his disposal were made up of part time players who were either working or studying. On 9th September 2009 the Faroes won 2-1 against Lithuania in a 2010 World Cup qualifying game, their first qualifying win since September 2001. On 12th October 2010 the Faroe Islands drew 1-1 against Northern Ireland in a UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier. Then followed a 2-0 win over Estonia on 7th June 2011, a first Euro qualifier win for the Faroes since their 1995 victory over San Marino. On 26th October 2011 Kerr stepped down as coach of the Faroese.

In the studio with Virgin Media (Credit: balls.ie)

Recently Kerr has been working as a television pundit, for both RTE and Virgin Media. It looked as though his involvement in top level football was over. That was until John O’Shea made that phone call and lured him back into the Ireland set up!

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4 thoughts on “Brian Kerr in Profile”

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