Heartbreak and Covid fiasco in Bratislava; discomfort of George Gibney story should be felt by all

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Ireland’s Shane Duffy dejected with Matt Doherty after the Euro 2020 playoff defeat to Slovakia. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland’s Shane Duffy dejected with Matt Doherty after the Euro 2020 playoff defeat to Slovakia. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Well that was a heartbreaker, wasn’t it? After hitting the post and having a chance cleared off the line, Ireland’s Euro 2020 hopes were ended in Bratislava last night when Matt Doherty’s penalty came crashing back off the crossbar after a 0-0 draw with Slovakia. It was a cruel ending to what had been a positive night in just Stephen Kenny’s third match in charge but, ultimately, it means Dublin won’t be hosting any Ireland matches at next year’s rescheduled European Championships. A strange night began with a Covid-19 fiasco which saw Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah ruled out of the match at the 11th hour because they had been deemed close contacts of an FAI backroom staff member who tested positive for the virus. It later emerged that the positive case was a member of the non-football staff which has Ken Early questioning this morning whether this could have been avoided. “How players of this importance could have been exposed to this sort of contact is a mistake that becomes more astonishing the more you think about it. Say what you like about the FAI, they keep finding ways to amaze you,” he writes. Meanwhile, we also have Malachy Clerkin’s player ratings while Mary Hannigan writes that, watching on RTÉ, we wouldn’t have blinked if Michael Flatley suddenly tapped his way across the floor.

On to rugby and Gerry Thornley writes this morning that winds of change are in the air as Andy Farrell gathers his first Ireland squad. The Ireland head coach has picked six uncapped players in his squad with John Cooney one of the biggest surprises in the exclusions list. “Although that first game against Italy at the Aviva Stadium offers more scope for experimentation, the starting line-up especially and match-day 23 is liable to fall along familiar lines,” he writes.

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