Hardly the most glamorous of games. The FAI have announced two Republic of Ireland friendly games to take take place later this year, with Bulgaria and New Zealand set to visit the Aviva Stadium.
The Bulgaria game will take place on September 10th, five days after the team's crucial home fixture against Switzerland in the Euro 2020 Qualifiers. It will Ireland's first meeting with the Eastern European nation since the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, which featured two 1-1 draws between the sides.
The New Zealand fixture could be a vital one, as it takes place only four days before the hugely important final qualifying fixture at home to Denmark. Ireland will be hoping to enter that game still having a shot at qualification for the finals, and the friendly against the 'All Whites' will offer Mick McCarthy the final opportunity to fine-tune his squad. It will be Ireland's first ever meeting against the Oceanic country.
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While neither of these are the most glamorous of opponents, the two friendly matches take on added significance due to the structuring of the qualifying campaign. While there previously seemed to be a never ending litany of international friendlies on the schedule, the UEFA Nations League has done away with all of that.
These will be the only two non-competitive fixtures Mick McCarthy will have in 2019, not an ideal scenario for an incoming manager. While the merits and importance of the Nations League can be debated, changing your manager after the competition leaves the incumbent boss with little to no time to prepare for vital qualifiers.
That is the situation Ireland now face, and McCarthy will have to hit the ground running in what is sure to be a highly competitive group. Ireland will open the Euro 2020 Qualifiers with a trip to Gibraltar on March 23rd, followed by a home game against Georgia three days later.