·20 November 2023
·20 November 2023
The Republic of Ireland’s friendly clash with New Zealand on Tuesday night will signal the end of one international career and perhaps two as a difficult calendar year draws to a close.
James McClean is set to make his 103rd and final appearance for his country in a fixture which could be manager Stephen Kenny’s last in charge, with his current contract due to expire on the final whistle.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game at the Aviva Stadium.
Wrexham’s McClean has represented his country with distinction since making his senior debut as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic in February 2012. A veteran of Ireland’s Euro 2012 and 2016 finals campaigns, the 34-year-old has played as a winger, a frontman and a wing-back under Giovanni Trapattoni, Martin O’Neill, Mick McCarthy and Kenny, and famously scored winning goals in Austria and Wales in World Cup qualifiers as the Republic made it to the play-offs for the 2018 finals. McClean was a late addition to the squad for Saturday evening’s 1-0 Euro 2024 defeat in the Netherlands but did not feature in Amsterdam and is sure to be given a rousing send-off in Dublin.
The Football Association of Ireland will consider a review of the campaign which ended at the Johan Cruyff Arena at its scheduled board meeting next week, and the outcome is unlikely to be positive for out-of-contract manager Stephen Kenny. The 52-year-old is convinced the framework is in place for a brighter future after a major refit which has seen him hand out 26 competitive debuts in his three-and-a-half years at the helm, but whether or not he remains in place to build upon that work is a mater of some contention.
Kenny’s trawl for new talent has seen him repeatedly dip into the nation’s resources at under-21 level, with the likes of goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, defenders Dara O’Shea and Nathan Collins, midfielder Jason Knight and striker Evan Ferguson now established as regulars in his team. He could hand Brighton midfielder Andy Moran, currently on loan at Sky Bet Championship Blackburn, a first senior cap after drafting him in from Jim Crawford’s squad as they prepared for European Under-21 Championship qualifiers against Norway and Italy to continue that trend.
Kenny freely admitted in the wake of the defeat in Amsterdam, which saw his side draw their fourth blank in eight qualifiers, that creativity and a lack of goals had become a problem. Seven of their nine goals in the campaign came in the two games against Gibraltar – for context, group winners France put 14 past the minnows at the weekend – and the other two were a Collins equaliser from a corner in Greece and an Adam Idah penalty against the Dutch at the Aviva Stadium.
Darren Bazeley’s All Whites arrive in Dublin on the back of a 2-0 friendly defeat by Ireland’s Group B rivals Greece in Athens on Friday evening, a result which means they have won only one of the 12 games they have played since their World Cup qualification campaign drew to a close in March last year. New Zealand have twice made it to the World Cup finals – in 1982 and 2010, when they went out after the group stage in South Africa despite draws with Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay. Their last visit to Ireland in November 2019 ended in a 3-1 friendly defeat in which Derrick Williams, Sean Maguire and Callum Robinson scored for the hosts.