An Ireland player who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday night and was then negative when retested on Monday, has returned another positive result in their third test, ruling them out of the trip to Finland for Wednesday night's Nations League match.
On Monday night the FAI said they were in talks with both Uefa and the HSE over what seemed to be a false positive case for the unnamed player and whether it meant he could make the trip to Finland.
However, shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning another FAI statement was released to say that the player in question, on their third test, had returned another positive result.
It's the second positive Covid-19 case in the Ireland camp over the last few days after another unnamed player was ruled out of Sunday's Nations League draw with Wales while a number of players were also made unavailable as they were deemed to be close contacts.
In this second case, however, the FAI say that no close contacts have been identified and that Stephen Kenny will not make any alterations to the squad who fly out to Helsinki on Tuesday morning.
The player’s first test was conducted by Uefa following the scoreless draw with Wales as part of the federation’s ongoing screening programme. When the FAI received the positive test on Monday it began to trace back through the player’s activity over the previous couple of days in order to establish what other squad members would have to be deemed “close contacts” and so excluded from the squad too.
In the wake, however, of what is now regarded by the association as a false positive involving one of its staff members in Bratislava – the incident that led to Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah being excluded from the Euro2020 playoff game – the organisation's medical personnel also proceeded with a second test for the player which came back negative.
The decision was then made to test the player for a third time in the hope that another negative test would allow him to take part in Wednesday’s match but that third test, like the first, came back positive.
The association said that it could not name the player involved. It has already said that it will conduct a full review of all of the Covid-related aspects of its operations during the current international window.
Earlier in the day, Connolly had arrived back into Dublin after having been given permission by his club, Brighton and Hove Albion, to rejoin the squad. Idah had been recalled the previous evening along with Ronan Curtis and Ryan Manning as well as Dara O'Shea and Jason Knight who were called up from the under-21 squad which is currently in Pisa ahead of a European Championship game with Italy.
Manning, from Galway, is regarded by many as overdue a senior international debut after a couple of particularly strong seasons during which he has mainly played at left back for his club, QPR. He has fallen out of favour at the London club after having declined to extend his contract beyond the end of this season and has been linked with a move to the likes of Blackburn Rovers and West Ham.
Kenny, meanwhile, had lost five players – Alan Browne, John Egan, Callum Robinson, Callum O'Dowda and Derrick Williams – for Sunday's game against Wales with one having tested positive, the rest deemed to be "close contacts" and the manager acknowledged after the match that there may well be some doubt over whether the November internationals go ahead.
A number of other countries, including Scotland and Slovakia, had positive cases in their squads and the Irish under-21s will play the Italian under-20s rather than their counterparts in a European Championship qualifier on Tuesday afternoon because their hosts had seven positive tests in recent days, including three on Sunday, with a further round of testing scheduled before the game and so were forced to replace virtually the whole squad.
“It’s crazy but something that’s going on everywhere,” said Daryl Horgan when asked about the situation around the Ireland squad in the wake of Saturday evening’s first positive result. “Everyone is in the same boat so you have to roll with the punches and follow the guidelines. It’s very unfortunate for the boys who have missed out [against Wales], it’s a tough one to stomach for them. But it’s in the world at the moment; we have to cope with it as best we can.
“As players it’s distracting in a way, but you have to roll with it,” he continued. “You just have to follow guidelines like everyone in the world at the minute.
“Football is high-profile so it gets a lot of coverage, but it’s the same in every workplace,” said the Wycombe player who along with Seani Maguire, had to be kept separate from the rest of the squad on Saturday evening after arriving into the team hotel until their test results had come back negative.
“But there’s no difference between football and the rest of the world. Everyone is a little on edge with Covid. You don’t know, you could have been in contact with someone at the airport, with someone who went to school with your kids; it’s just a strange time for everyone. So you just have to follow the guidelines and keep as right as you possibly can.”