"If it is my last game, so be it," said Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny as he faced the media for the pre-match press conference at the FAI headquarters in Dublin on Monday morning.
Kenny remains in charge for the end-of-year international friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening, but speculation remains rife that it will be the manager's final game in charge of the national team.
The game against the Kiwis will bring an end to Kenny’s current contract, which was valid as long as Ireland were in contention for Euro 2024, but with Group B also coming to a conclusion on Tuesday night when the four other teams play out the final two games, Ireland’s chances of making it to next summer’s tournament have long-since evaporated.
Kenny’s side finished up the disappointing campaign with a meagre six points from eight games played, all six coming from expected home and away wins against Gibraltar.
Ireland failed to take anything from the two top seeds, and while that was not entirely unexpected, the fact that they lost twice, home and away, to Greece really brought the manager’s position into question.
Kenny admitted that he sought further clarification in relation to his position in the job ahead of the current international window, however, he must now play the waiting game until the FAI make their decision, which is expected to arrive before the end of the month.
"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."
Looking ahead to the New Zealand encounter, the manager confirmed that just one player has been ruled out of the squad following Saturday night’s tough task in Amsterdam, where Ireland lost 1-0 to the Netherlands.
"Just one missing from the squad; Nathan Collins, ankle ligaments," said Kenny. "The squad otherwise is the same."
"We'll see today but I think Evan is basically okay," said the manager when asked about young striker Evan Ferguson, who appeared to have a hamstring concern after being substituted early in the second half at the Johan Cruyff Arena. "He seems to be ok and will be included in the squad.
"Obviously, we will make changes from the other night, for different reasons, freshen up and for some people to play. We will try to finish the season on a strong note."
One player who will certainly start is a man who is calling time on an incredible Ireland career, having notched up 102 appearances in the green jersey for his country.
James McClean joined the manager at the top table for the media briefing, and the Derry native spoke about the pride and privilege of wearing the green and representing Ireland in two major tournaments, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.
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"I’ve never hid the fact that it means everything," said an emotional 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 that pulling on the green jersey and representing your country.
"I will be honest with you. It's not because of my body, or I feel my ability has diminished," said McClean, when asked why he was retiring.
"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 start.
"Ability-wise, I was second for full-backs in goals and assists, and for most successful tackles in the whole league.
"There's 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."
"Not to sound too cliché, but putting on that jersey is as special as the first time," said the former Sunderland winger, when asked for his highlights playing for his country.
"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."
As for the lows, McClean admits that it still hurts that he did not get to go to a World Cup with Ireland but cannot have any regrets following an international career to envy.
"Look, I’ve had incredible highs in the Ireland jersey, with a couple of lows, obviously, I would have loved to play in the World Cup, and that Denmark [play-off] game, that’s something that will always hurt, but I’ve got absolutely no regrets."
As for the manager, was he tempted to ask the retiring McClean to hang on a bit longer on the international circuit?
"That’s a decision for James, I wouldn’t try to influence that," said Kenny. "James is still in control of his own destiny. He is still playing professional football, he is hoping to get promoted this year, so he will make that decision himself, I’m sure."
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Watch Republic of Ireland Under-21 v Italy Under-21 in Euro 2025 qualifying on Tuesday from 5pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player and follow a live blog on www.rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app
Watch Republic of Ireland v New Zealand on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Tuesday from 7.30pm, follow a live blog on www.rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra