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Republic of Ireland 1-1 New Zealand: Irish held in friendly as James McClean retires


Stephen Kenny and James McClean hug
McClean was embraced by Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, who may have taken charge for the final time

The Republic of Ireland failed to end a disappointing year on a high as they were held by New Zealand on a night when James McClean brought down the curtain on his international career.

Adam Idah’s 28th-minute strike put the Republic in the driving seat at the break in the Dublin friendly.

But New Zealand hit back through Matthew Garbett just before the hour.

McClean then bid farewell to the Irish fans in what may also prove to be Stephen Kenny’s final match in charge.

Kenny’s contract is up, with the Dubliner’s fate expected to be decided at next week’s Football Association of Ireland board meeting.

If it does end up being Kenny’s farewell, he will be left to reflect on yet another frustrating night as his side were unable to finish 2023 with a morale-boosting win, having failed to qualify for next summer’s European Championship.

McClean bids farewell

While speculation over Kenny’s future will continue over the next week, McClean was able to bid farewell to the Irish supporters as he put the finishing touches on an 11-year international career that comprised 103 caps and appearances at Euro 2012 and 2016.

McClean, not named captain ahead of Shane Duffy in his last game, was joined on the pitch before kick-off by three of his four children as fans showed their appreciation for the Wrexham player.

Starting at left-back, the 34-year-old was involved as the Republic dominated possession, although he was denied a farewell goal when Michael Boxall rushed to block his goal-bound shot in the ninth minute.

McClean’s night – and Republic career – ended in touching fashion in the 66th minute when he was applauded off the pitch by his team-mates and the Irish supporters to be replaced by Ryan Manning, with the former Wigan winger also given a guard of honour before departing down the tunnel after the match.

McClean is given a guard of honour
McClean was all smiles as he was given a guard of honour to mark the end of his Republic of Ireland career

Boos after another frustrating night

With Mikey Johnston a lively outlet, much of the Republic’s play came down the left and Matt Doherty should have opened the scoring from close range after he was found by Jason Knight.

The home side’s early superiority did produce the opening goal just before the half-hour, though, as Mark Sykes – making his first international start – dispossessed Nando Pijnaker, allowing Idah to run through and deliver a composed finish.

While the Republic were on top for much of the first half, goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher was called into action when his flying save denied Sarpreet Singh’s curling effort from distance. The Republic pressed for a second in the early stages of the second half, with Jayson Molumby firing just wide from outside the box before Duffy headed a McClean corner straight at New Zealand keeper Max Crocombe.

However, New Zealand grew increasingly dangerous in the second half and found the leveller when Garbett drove a superb low effort past substitute Republic keeper Mark Travers after Duffy’s challenge on Chris Wood.

New Zealand also had a goal disallowed for offside, and while McClean was afforded a touching send-off, the home side were unable to find a late winner as Kenny’s side finished the year with three wins – two of which came against Gibraltar – in 10 matches.

The visitors spurned a chance to grab a last-gasp winner when substitute Tyler Bindon headed wide.

At full-time, there were boos from sections of the 26,517-strong crowd as Kenny applauded the Irish fans for what many expect to be the final time.

Line-ups

Republic of Ireland

Formation 4-3-3

  • 16KelleherSubstituted forTraversat 45′minutes
  • 2DohertySubstituted forBrowneat 73′minutes
  • 4Duffy
  • 12Omobamidele
  • 11McCleanSubstituted forManningat 67′minutes
  • 14Molumby
  • 17KnightSubstituted forCullenat 54′minutes
  • 18McGrath
  • 13Sykes
  • 10IdahSubstituted forFergusonat 66′minutes
  • 20JohnstonSubstituted forMoranat 79′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Bazunu
  • 3Manning
  • 5O’Shea
  • 6Cullen
  • 7Robinson
  • 8Browne
  • 9Ferguson
  • 15Scales
  • 19Parrott
  • 21Moran
  • 23Travers

New Zealand

Formation 4-3-3

  • 12Crocombe
  • 2PayneSubstituted forBindonat 89′minutes
  • 5Boxall
  • 4Pijnaker
  • 13Cacace
  • 8Stamenic
  • 6Bell
  • 7GarbettSubstituted forLewisat 82′minutes
  • 10Singh
  • 9WoodSubstituted forMataat 60′minutes
  • 20McCowattSubstituted forJustat 77′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Woud
  • 3Wilkins
  • 11Just
  • 14Champness
  • 15Smith
  • 16Surman
  • 17Greive
  • 18Bindon
  • 19Waine
  • 21Mata
  • 22Paulsen
  • 23Lewis

Referee:
Urs Schnyder

Attendance:
26,517

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