Stephen Kenny: 'If it's my last game, so be it'

Stephen Kenny: 'If it's my last game, so be it'

Stephen Kenny has claimed that if tomorrow's friendly against New Zealand is his last game as Ireland manager, then "so be it." 

Kenny's time with Ireland is likely to end with the final game of the year. After several failed campaigns, including this one where Ireland finished second bottom with only two wins in their group, Kenny's departure seems inevitable. 

It is reported that the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) will have sit-down talks to discuss Kenny's contract next week, and the outcome appears to be obvious. 

Ireland welcomes New Zealand to the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night. Kenny was once again asked about the game being his last as Ireland boss and accepted that the FAI's impending decision will be one that he will accept regardless of the outcome presented to him. 

"I sought clarification before this window in regard to my own position," said Kenny. "And if that wasn’t the case, I would have made that clear earlier in the week. But from my point of view, the decision is being made next week. 

"If it is my last game, so be it. Regardless of what decision is made and if there is a new manager to come in after me, I’ll wish them well, and I’ll wish the team well moving forward, and I’ll always support Ireland. So, from that point of view, that’s the way I view it." 

Despite being under intense pressure from fans and the media, players under Kenny have not talked badly or asked for change. Players like Mikey Johnston and Jamie McGrath last week spoke about wanting to keep Kenny on. There is still a slim chance that Kenny will stay on, but it's very remote. In contrast, one man who will not be part of the Ireland squad going forward is James McClean, the Ireland winger and centurion. 

After 102 appearances in the green jersey, McClean will retire from international football on Tuesday night. Speaking about his feelings ahead of the night, the Derry native admitted that it was a sad time for him personally. 

"I’ve never hidden the fact that it means everything," said McClean. "The Ireland jersey, along with the Derry City jersey, is a jersey that means more to me than anything else ever will. 

"Tomorrow night for the last time, I’ll pull it on. When I say it out loud, it is a bit sad that that is going to be the case, but I’ll do what I have done 102 times before and I’ll try to do it with as much pride and as much justice as possible because there is no more special feeling than pulling on the green jersey and representing your country. 

McClean was asked why he wanted to walk away from the Ireland squad despite being "fit as ever." The Wrexham player admitted that it was down to "personal reasons." 

"I will be honest with you. It's not because of my body, or I feel my ability has diminished," added McClean. 

"I still feel as fit as ever. I still believe I am the best person for the role. I have never doubted myself. I played 46 games out of 46 in the Championship last season, 45 of them starting. 

"Ability-wise, I was second for full-backs in goals and assists, and for most successful tackles in the whole league. 

"There are other factors. I have personal reasons and my own reasons for stepping away; I feel now is the right time to step aside. Let others come through; I've had my time." 

McClean has given everything in an Ireland jersey since his debut in 2012 under Giovanni Trapattoni. He also claims that putting on an Ireland jersey in 2023 gives him the same feeling as it did in 2012. 

"Not to sound too cliché, but putting on that jersey is as special as the first time," said the former Sunderland winger. 

"I’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible moments in that jersey; I’ve got to play at two major tournaments, and unless you’re there, it is very hard to put it into words and describe it to people. Words don’t do it justice, and some people never get to experience it, and I’ve got to do it twice." 

Ireland plays New Zealand at 7:45 pm. Fans in the Republic of Ireland will be able to watch the game on RTE2 from 7:30 pm, but the game has not been picked up for TV coverage in the UK.