Republic of Ireland v New Zealand
Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm – Live RTÉ2
The Streisand effect has descended on the FAI. Somebody in Abbotstown thought it prudent on Monday to tweet out half the answer supplied by Stephen Kenny when the Republic of Ireland manager was asked about his future employment.
“If it is my last game, so be it,” Kenny had explained. “If there is a new manager to follow me, I’ll wish him well. If that is the case and they make that decision, I’ll wish them well and the team well moving forward. I’ll always support Ireland.”
The tweet was deleted. The full quote reiterated last week’s revelation that the manager had “sought clarification” about a contract extension before this dead-rubber international window.
“But from my point of view, the decision is being made next week,” Kenny added.
FAI director of football Marc Canham will present a review of the European Championships qualification campaign to the 10-strong board of directors on November 28th. This is the same board that does not currently have a chairperson, as Roy Barrett has departed and his replacement Tony Keohane cannot be ratified until the agm on December 9th. Outgoing president Gerry McAnaney chaired the most recent meeting.
[ Nathan Collins ruled out of Ireland match against New Zealand ]
Despite the background noise, Kenny lauded the sale of 41,000 tickets for Tuesday night’s game with New Zealand, ranked 103rd in the world, even though the tickets were bundled with the Greece game in October. On Friday the White Caps lost 2-0 in Athens.
“There’s not many countries in Europe getting crowds like that for the lesser nations,” he said. “It’s a credit to the team and a credit to the players.”
Kenny also showed due respect to Darren Bazeley’s squad by name-checking Nottingham Forest’s muscular striker Chris Wood and Red Star Belgrade midfielder Marko Stamenic. He could have added Liberato Cacace, who injured Irish right back Festy Ebosele marked in the recent Serie A tie between Udinese and Empoli.
Nathan Collins is ruled out with ankle ligament damage so Shane Duffy could return to win a 60th cap.
Ireland under-21s skipper Andy Moran seems certain to become the 27th player to be capped in a competitive match since September 2020. If the 19-year-old stays benched, the growing followers of Jim Crawford’s talented underage side will be livid as the U-21s face Italy at Turners Cross this evening.
It’s still too early to say, but Moran’s loan to Blackburn Rovers from Brighton keeps hinting at the arrival of the type of creative force Irish midfields have lacked for decades.
“Andy is someone who deserves to be here,” said Kenny. “I heard it said that it was inexcusable that I called him in to the seniors. What’s inexcusable is the fact not many players were progressing through the Irish system for eight years. Now we have a system that’s aligned from the under-15s right to the under-21s where all the managers are working together to promote the ultimate goal of getting players in the senior international team.
[ Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford plays down Andrew Moran’s absence ]
“Andy is a really good prospect who we want to progress. If it’s not me after this campaign, then the next manager.”
The penultimate press conference began with a jab at unnamed critics, who apparently compared a 1-0 loss to the Dutch with dark nights for Irish football under Mick McCarthy, Steve Staunton and Martin O’Neill.
“It wasn’t like we lost 4-1 to Wales or got hammered in Cyprus or Macedonia the other night, it was a tight game in Holland that we lost 1-0 and deserved to lose. It was one of those games, I think a bit of perspective on that, you know?”
O’Neill’s Ireland lost 4-1 to Wales in 2018, Staunton’s squad was beaten 5-2 by Cyprus in Nicosia seven years ago and in April 1997 McCarthy’s side lost 3-2 in Skopje.
“You can add one or two of mine on to that for sure,” Kenny added.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (possible): Bazunu (Southampton); Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), O’Shea (Burnley), Duffy (Norwich City), Scales (Celtic); Cullen (Burnley), Browne (Preston); McGrath (Aberdeen), Moran (Blackburn Rovers), Johnston (Celtic); Ferguson (Brighton).