Former Republic of Ireland international player and Sky Sports pundit Keith Andrews talks to Donna Ahern about what he makes of the recent managerial appointments and his role as brand ambassador for the Spar FAI Primary School 5s Programme
What does your role as Brand Ambassador of the 2019 Spar Primary School 5s Programme involve?
I’m very proud to be involved with the Spar Primary School 5s Programme as a brand ambassador. I work alongside Spar and the FAI to promote the programme within primary schools. The Spar Primary School 5s Programme is essentially a five-a-side competition directed at both boys and girls in 4th, 5th and 6th class.
Why do you think you were chosen to work with Spar on this project?
Having been an Irish international football player and also having worked as a coach from U14 teams all the way up to senior teams, I understand the importance of playing sports and obviously football is my passion. It has given me a wonderful life and taught me so much on so many levels, since I first became involved at the age of five, when I joined my first team.
The competition attracted entries from nearly 31,728 students and 1,528 schools nationwide in 2018 and has seen a 63% participation since its inception in 2015. How has the increase in health awareness in Ireland contributed to the increased interest in the programme?
It certainly helps that we are constantly striving as a nation to be more health conscious and exercise plays a huge part in that. Obesity levels in Ireland are high and it is up to us as adults to do what we can to get the next generation off the PlayStations and onto the grass to play sports.
What do you make of the managerial appointments for Ireland, with Mick McCarthy taking on a short term role and Stephen Kenny working with the U21s until he takes over?
It was well documented that I felt there was a need for a change as the previous 12 to 18 months hadn’t been good at senior level, both on and off the pitch. It’s obviously an unorthodox appointment but what we do have is two men with clear ideas of how they want to play and are very passionate about being Ireland manager.
Would you have fancied a go at the job yourself?
Maybe one day, but both Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny are far more qualified to lead our team than I am.
How excited are you about Kenny taking over, considering our last manager from the Irish league, Brian Kerr, had the highest win rate of Ireland’s last six coaches?
Well, I’m very excited as I’m currently working with Stephen as his assistant with the U21 team. Stephen is someone who wants his teams to play with a clear identity. He encourages his players to show what they are capable of and has utter belief in their abilities. I have really enjoyed working with him so far.
Who is most difficult opponent you’ve faced in your football career?
I’ve played against some magnificent players and it’s very hard to choose one. Some of the best would be Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Steven Gerard, Paul Scholes and Modric. All had very different strengths but were world class players.
As a sports pundit, what has been the stand out moment for you to date?
I’ve been fortunate to work at both Euro 2016, World Cup 2018 and lots of Champions League games. One stand out moment would be commentating at the Nou Camp for Lionel Messi’s free kick in the semi final of the Champions League. I thought it was too far out to score!
What's next for Keith Andrews?
I am busy enough as the assistant manager of our U21 team, working for Sky Sports and Virgin Media Sport and also completing my UEFA Pro License course.
What advice would you give to a 20-year-old Keith Andrews?
Do what a Keith Andrews aged 25+ did, as you would have played a lot more Premier League games than you did.
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