Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has had to conduct another late reshuffle after losing five players for Sunday’s Nations League clash with Wales following a positive coronavirus test.
Three days after Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah had to be withdrawn from the squad ahead of Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia, the Football Association of Ireland announced that an unnamed player had recorded a positive result.
As a result, four men deemed to be close contacts – the PA news agency understands Sheffield United defender John Egan, West Brom striker Callum Robinson, Bristol City midfielder Callum O’Dowda and Preston’s Alan Browne are the players concerned – were stood down.
An FAI statement said: “Stephen Kenny’s Ireland squad has received one positive COVID-19 test result ahead of today’s Nations League game against Wales at the Aviva Stadium, after the latest round of UEFA testing.
“A player – who cannot be named at this time – tested positive on Friday after a negative test on Monday but his case is not related in any way to that of the backroom team member who tested positive on Monday last.
“Talks with the HSE late last night identified four other players as close contacts of this positive case and they have been stood down from the matchday squad for today’s game against Wales.”
Kenny has had to alter his plans accordingly having already lost Connolly and Idah, as well as injury victims David McGoldrick, Seamus Coleman, Harry Arter and Darragh Lenihan.
He was able to name only seven substitutes, including two goalkeepers, for the game with Blackburn defender Derrick Williams also missing from the 18-man squad.
Speaking before the game, the manager told Sky Sports: “We got some results nearly into midnight last night, so five of the players are not available today.
“To be honest with you, we haven’t had any coronavirus in the camp at all – the previous case was a false positive, so all of the other arrangements that we’ve made were in vain, really, because it was a false positive, so this is the first case we’ve had. We haven’t had it at all.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a case and four close contacts on the flight. Four who would have been starting today, actually, in the team that we were picking are out today, so that’s the way it is. We just have to contend with that.”
In a fresh twist, the FAI also confirmed that Connolly, who would have started the game, and Idah could have played in Bratislava after all, where Ireland suffered a 4-2 defeat on penalties following a goalless draw.
The pair were withdrawn after a non-football member of staff tested positive following the squad’s arrival in Slovakia when it emerged that they had been sitting within two metres of him on the flight over.
However, it has since emerged that that test may have produced a “false positive” result.
The statement continued: “In a separate development, the FAI can now reveal that the staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 in Bratislava on Wednesday, may have received a ‘false positive’ result.
“Two further tests carried out on the individual on Saturday have confirmed no trace of COVID-19. The HSE and UEFA have been informed of this result. The FAI will now discuss the issue with UEFA.
“In light of these developments, the FAI wishes to make it clear that it complied with all UEFA and HSE COVID-19 guidelines concerning the availability of players and the well-being of staff around the Slovakia v Republic of Ireland fixture in Bratislava on Thursday night.”
Kenny will assess his options once again after the Wales game as the FAI reviews its Covid-19 protocols ahead of Wednesday’s Nations League trip to Finland.
The statement said: “Manager Stephen Kenny will review his options for Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League game in Finland after today’s fixture against Wales. The FAI will review all COVID-19 protocols with UEFA and the HSE after the Finland game.”