Irish Examiner view: Sport takes centre stage 

International soccer and rugby encounters tonight and Saturday are a truly mouthwatering prospect for all Irish fans
Irish Examiner view: Sport takes centre stage 

Stephen Kenny's Republic of Ireland side will tonight set out to reply to the agonising last-minute defeat they suffered in September at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored both of Portugal's goals.

Even for a sports-mad country used to big occasions, the next three days are a mouth-watering prospect.

First up is Cristiano Ronaldo and his star-studded Portugal side who will look to take a step closer to World Cup qualification when they take on Stephen Kenny’s men in a sold-out Aviva Stadium this evening. 

No matter where you stand on the Ronaldo divide, there’s no denying his star-power and, for the under-pressure FAI, he puts plenty of bums on seats.

The limelight then switches to Saturday when the all-conquering All-Blacks take on Andy Farrell’s side in what is clearly the pick of the autumn internationals. It’s an interesting time for the two managers. Both enjoyed indifferent starts to their tenures — Kenny’s by far the rockier of the two.

Both under varying degrees of pressure as results fell short of expectation. But thankfully, things are on the up. 

Ireland won’t qualify for the World Cup. Early results under Kenny were dismal, but is the tide beginning to turn? We should have beaten Portugal last time. Revenge tomorrow, or at least another fighting performance, will keep up the momentum.

After putting Japan to the sword last week with a refreshingly open and attacking game plan, Farrell’s men are in with a realistic shout on Saturday despite the obvious step up. 

It’s good to have capacity crowds back. Let’s hope they have something to cheer about.

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