Kenny says Connolly and Idah were ruled out for Covid-19 reasons

Pair deemed to be close contacts of FAI backroom staff member who tested positive

Ireland’s Adam Idah at training in Bratislava the day before the Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland’s Adam Idah at training in Bratislava the day before the Euro 2020 playoff against Slovakia. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny confirmed after the Euro 2020 playoff defeat to Slovakia that Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were ruled out at the 11th hour because they were deemed close contacts of an FAI backroom staff member who tested positive for Covid-19.

Kenny said that both players were “absolutely fine” but that the “stringent” Covid-19 rules in Ireland meant they were unable to play.

Before the match the FAI confirmed that a member of staff had tested positive for the virus on Wednesday night and had been asymptomatic.

Connolly and Idah were not in direct contact with the staff member but were both within two metres of them meaning that, under HSE guidelines which state that a close contact is someone within two metres of a confirmed case for more than two hours, both players were forced to self-isolate and were therefore ruled out of the match.

“The two metre rule is in Ireland but is not in the UK,” said Kenny after the match. “If they were in the UK they would have been perfectly entitled to play but Ireland has more stringent rules and we had to abide by the rules.

“We appealed it on the basis of 1.7 metres as opposed to 1.9 metres, that’s how far they were away, as opposed to two metres which would have made them okay. That wasn’t deemed sufficient.”

In just his third match in charge of the team Kenny saw his players fall at the very last hurdle when Matt Doherty’s penalty struck the crossbar to end Irish hopes of being at next year’s rescheduled European Championships but there were plenty of positives to take.

After earning this playoff spot through a Nations League campaign that began with a 4-1 defeat to Wales a full two years ago, saw the exit of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, the appointment of Mick McCarthy, third place in Euro 2020 qualifying Group D and the early appointment of Kenny, Ireland have come a long way in every sense over the last two years.

Conor Hourihane and Alan Browne had chances to set up what would have been a playoff final against Northern Ireland on November 12th but Hourihane saw his effort cleared off the line before Browne struck the post in extra-time.

Afterwards, captain Shane Duffy acknowledged that his side had their chances in what was a tight and tense encounter from start to finish.

“We created chances and it just wasn’t our night, it didn’t drop for us,” said Duffy, who saved his team with a clearance off the line in normal time.

“It went the whole way and both teams cancelled each other out in the end. It’s hard to take at the minute, it’s heartbreaking and very disappointing.”

Not since the 2002 World Cup has an Ireland side lost in a shootout when, on that occasion, it was Spain who did the damage in the last 16.

For Kenny there couldn’t be many worse ways to lose what was one of the biggest matches in his managerial career but afterwards he paid tribute to his payers.

“I think they really showed great qualities as men and as Irishmen,” the manager said.

“They showed themselves to be a real team, there was tremendous team ethic and everyone done as much as they could.

“As the game progressed I felt we were in the ascendancy and we looked like we wanted to win it and we had good chances. Very, very unfortunate and a very harsh way to lose.

“The players didn’t deserve to lose the game, they gave absolutely everything of themselves. The determination to try and win tonight and get to the final was very evident. It’s a cruel way to lose.”

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