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Preview: Curtain coming down on Stephen Kenny era as James McClean bids adieu

Despite playing France and the Netherlands twice throughout the year, tonight's end-of-season meaningless friendly against New Zealand may prove to be the most significant.

The final game of the 2023 calendar year also looks set to be the last outing for Stephen Kenny as manager of the Ireland team.

Kenny’s contract will officially run out tonight following the culmination of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign; it would have continued until March had Ireland managed to secure one of the available play-off places via the Nations League route, and again extended had Ireland qualified for next summer’s tournament in Germany.

In truth, Ireland’s involvement in the European Championships never looked realistic from the moment France and the Netherlands were drawn alongside Kenny’s side in Group B, while the failed Nations League campaign – finishing third behind Scotland and Ukraine – meant that the play-offs were always going to be aspirational.

And so it proved.

Now Ireland will have to wait until September before they are involved in meaningful competitive action with the resumption of the next edition of the Nations League.

In effect, it gives the FAI time to map out their preferred route for the future, however, they must make a call on the current manager over the next week or two.

Without assurances of future employment, there is no choice now but to plough on, prepare for the visit of New Zealand, and see what happens, however, there is a sense that Kenny feels that his time might be up, stating "if it is my last game, so be it" at Monday’s press conference, while stressing that he would wish any future manager well in the roll.

Kenny was confirmed as Ireland manager in bizarre circumstances, on the same day that Mick McCarthy