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A deep look into McKinstry’s reign as Cranes’ coach

By Brian Aheebwa
Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry | FUFA Media

Johnathan McKinstry’s reign as Uganda Cranes coach was brought to an end on Monday after FUFA announced that they had agreed to terminate his three-year contract.

Without any doubt, his sacking was as a result of the national team’s recent poor run of results in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers and a poor show at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament in Cameroon.

Uganda failed to qualify for a third consecutive AFCON finals while they disappointed at CHAN in January 2021 finishing rock bottom of their Group A as douts were thrown over the Irishman’s potential as Cranes’ coach.

And on that note, we take a deep look into the one-and-a-half-year the 35-year-old has spent in Uganda having joined in October 2019 when he signed a three-year contract until 2022.

He started off well with a 1-0 win over Ethiopia in a friendly game thanks to striker Emmanuel Okwi’s lone strike.

McKinstry and the Cranes then embarked on the 2021 AFCON qualification campaign in November as he picked up a 0-0 draw away to Burkina Faso in a bid to make it to a third straight AFCON final.

Ugandans loved him most when he comfortably guided the Cranes’ to a 2-0 win over Malawi at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole. It was his first home game in the Cranes dugout on November 17, 2019.

Despite the Cranes dominance in the CECAFA region, McKinstry winning the regional gong in his first two months as Uganda’s coach obviously can not go unnoticed.

Under the Irishman, Uganda hosted and won the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup unbeaten in six games, winning all of them as they claimed a record 14th title. Then the future looked bright for him.

Minus international football action going for almost a year on the African continent due to coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the Cranes returned to action in November 2020 to continue chasing the AFCON ticket

They hosted South Sudan at the St. Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, a side Uganda struggled to against until substitute Halid Lwaliwa headed home the winner in the 85th minutes off Farouk Miya’s free kick.

And that seemed to be the turning point as things went south for McKinstry, with the fans beginning to question his coaching abilities.

Some sided with him saying maybe because the team had taken long minus playing together and also playing from an artificial turf could have been challenging.

The country waited to see how the team would recover from the poor display heading into the return leg of the doubleheader at the natural surface Nyayo Stadium in Kenya.

But a shock result would suffice for the Cranes as they suffered a 1-0 defeat thanks to a penalty by Ugandan born forward Tito Okello.

Many called for his immediate sacking and the Cranes poor show at the CHAN tournament did not help matters for the former Amavubi Stars tactician.

While appearing on NBS’ Sunday Sports Show ‘The Score’ in February FUFA president Moses Magogo noted that they will evaluate his performance after which a decision about his future would be made.

And a decision was made, Police FC’s head coach Abdallah Mubiru who has been his first assistant and his second assistant Charles Livingstone Mbabazi will take on the task for now with the help of goalkeeper coach Fred Kajoba.

The trio’s first challenge will be negotiating crucial qualifiers against Burkina Faso and Malawi later this month.

Uganda 1-0 Ethiopia (Friendly)
Burkina Faso 0-0 Uganda (AFCON Q)
Uganda 2-0 Malawi (AFCON Q)
Uganda 2-1 Burundi (CECAFA)
Somalia 0-2 Uganda (CECAFA)
Eritrea 2-0 Uganda (CECAFA)
Uganda 1-4 Djibouti (CECAFA)
Uganda 1-0 Tanzania (CECAFA)
Uganda 3-0 Eritrea (CECAFA)
Uganda 1-0 South Sudan (AFCON Q)
South Sudan 1-0 Uganda (AFCON Q)
Rwanda 0-0 Uganda (CHAN)
Uganda 1-2 Togo (CHAN)
Uganda 2-5 Morocco (CHAN)

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