Tuesday 21 November
Watch live coverage on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player from 7.30pm.
Listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra in a special broadcast.
Follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News App.
It should be a dry evening with temperatures about 7°C. Conditions should be perfect for the game.
KENNY SET TO SAY GOODBYE
This wasn’t supposed to be how it was going to end.
The Stephen Kenny era promised so much and looks set to end in disappointment with two failed campaigns.
The 50-year-old can take comfort in the tools he has left behind with over 20 players blooded.
His era will be analysed for years to come as many of the players have at least of decade of service to come in the green shirt.
Covid misfortunes, more bad luck in qualification draws and just plain bad peformances in the end could sum it up succinctly.
But it has left a real gloom over Ireland. A new approach and vision – together with an FAI starting their own new chapter – was set to change the game.
It hasn’t and leaves many supporters disillusioned. The next manager’s job will be to lift those spirits.
For Kenny this game represents the chance to sign off on a nice note.
New Zealand are far from a formidable opponent and particularly away from home in Europe.
Expect changes and more young faces to get a chance. Andrew Moran is likely to get his debut and the game will be noteworthy for that at least.
James McClean will also sign off at the other end of the scale.
It has been confirmed he will start the final fixture of his international career.
“James will start tomorrow for sure… he has fortitude, mental strength and high levels of skill as a winger.”
Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has paid tribute to 100-plus cap winner James McClean ahead of the meeting with New Zealand on Tuesday evening.#RTEsoccer #IRLNZL pic.twitter.com/JGvrMP4lfV
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) November 20, 2023
Outside of it, little will be learned, only for one more small step on Ireland’s path to a better future.
It may not be Kenny’s team after tonight but his stamp will certainly be all over it.
ALL WHITE ON THE NIGHT
New Zealand boss Darren Bazeley took over in March 2023 having come through as manager of underage sides. The All Whites missed out on World Cup qualification in the play-offs.
While he has blooded a young team, results have been poor. Nine friendlies have been played with just a single win and four goals scored.
Now ranked 103rd in the world, their last of two appearances in the World Cup was 2010.
There is League of Ireland interest in the side, specifically to Sligo Rovers.
Bit O’ Red centre half Nando Pijnaker is a regular starter although he was a substitute in the 2-0 defeat to Greece last week.
Max Mata had been set to challenge for the golden boot in the Premier Division before his transfer to Shrewsbury Town last July.
Mata has yet to find the net in 12 appearances since the move to League 1.
Again he has flirted with a starting position but the main man for the All Whites is Nottingham Forest striker Chris Wood.
Last week’s starting goalkeeper Michael Woud is playing in the second division in Japan.
There are three Wellington Pheonix players in Tim Payne, Alex Paulsen and Finn Surman, while many players have graduated from the A League in Australia to go on to play all over Europe.
Sarpreet Singh is a potential danger man having made his name at Pheonix before eventually transfer to Bayern Munich.
After a number of loan spell he is now loving out for German second tier side Hansa Rostock.
Michael Boxall has been an established player in the MLS with Minnesota United.
As well as preparing for World Cup 2026 qualifiers, New Zealand also have an eye on the Olympics next year with six players eligible to compete at that Under-23 level.
New Zealand squad:
Goalkeepers: Max Crocombe, Alex Paulsen, Michael Woud
Defenders: Tyler Bindon, Michael Boxall, Liberato Cacace, Tim Payne, Nando Pijnaker, Tommy Smith, Finn Surman, Dalton Wilkins
Midfielders: Joe Bell, Matt Garbett, Clayton Lewis, Callum McCowatt, Sarpreet Singh, Marko Stamenic
Forwards: Joey Champness, Alex Greive, Eli Just, Max Mata, Ben Waine, Chris Wood
INTEREST DWINDLING BUT PLAYER SUPPORT
With due respect to New Zealand, this game is a hard sell even for the dedicated Irish fans.
There’s been no indication how many are expected to say goodbye to the Kenny era.
Anything over 25,000 would be a success given how the year has gone for Ireland.
The one consolation for Kenny is his players have given him some words of comfort.
Matt Doherty praised the manager’s impact.
“Going back to Stephen, I’ve always backed him, he’s always backed me. I’d love to see him and the coaching staff all to stay. If people really saw what it’s like on the training pitch, in the changing room, how he cares about his players, and how they set us up, the attention to detail… you’d be hard pressed to find someone else to deliver that.”
Gavin Bazunu, a star performer last Saturday, also spoke up for his manager.
Caoimhin Kelleher could well get a rare start in this game to show his credentials.
Ireland are set to operate with the same squad as the defeat to Netherlands.
Evan Ferguson was substituted in the second half so it remains to be seen what role he plays with Premier League fixtures beckoning for Brighton.