McClean’s Republic of Ireland farewell dampened by New Zealand draw
Matt Garbett ruined James McClean’s farewell party as the Republic of Ireland were held to an embarrassing friendly draw by New Zealand.
Both McClean – who was making his 103rd and final senior appearance for his country – and manager Stephen Kenny, out of contract on the final whistle and with seemingly little hope of an extension, might have hoped for a rousing conclusion at the Aviva Stadium.
But a paltry crowd of 26,517 saw NAC Breda midfielder Garbett cancel out Adam Idah’s first-half opener to claim a 1-1 draw on a night when Ireland, who have slipped to 58th place in FIFA’s world rankings table, were at times out-played by a side some 45 places below them.
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A review of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, which ended fruitlessly for the Republic with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands, will be considered by the Football Association of Ireland’s board next week, but evidence of the progress Kenny believes has been made was in painfully short supply once again.
Ireland, starting with a flat back four, made an uncertain start as the All Whites enjoyed early possession in their opponents’ half, but as McClean and Celtic winger Mikey Johnston got the bit between his teeth down the left, they started to make an impression.
New Zealand defender Michael Boxall had to be in the right place at the right time to deny first McClean and then – from the resulting corner – central defender Shane Duffy, with the home side pinning the visitors back.
Kenny’s men continued to dominate possession, but found space at a premium as the All Whites defended their box resolutely until the 28th minute, when they were finally pierced, if with an element of controversy.