Shamrock Rovers central defender Roberto Lopes is out of Friday night’s first league meeting of the season with Dundalk as the 28-year-old has been obliged to isolate in a hotel after returning from international duty last week with Cape Verde.
Lopes played the entirety of his side’s 3-1 African Cup of Nations qualifying win over Cameroon, who will host the finals next January, a result that took Cape Verde to the brink of qualification and the Dubliner then returned home before a final group stage defeat of Mozambique that ensured they will be at the tournament.
“Yeah he played very well… they played very well,” says Rovers manager, Stephen Bradley. “It looked a bit of a windstorm but they won the game and qualified. I’m delighted for him, it’s fantastic.
“We actually got him back early because it (the quarantine requirement) is complicated. We had to get him back early with the schedule in mind, April is busy. If we’d left him there it would probably have been mid-April before we got him back.”
Lopes must remain isolated until the start of next week after which, Bradley says, the player will need a few days to get completely back up to speed again.
“It’s been tough for him. He’s a very professional, fit fella and he hasn’t been able to stay on top of that. Even if he got out today or tomorrow (Friday) morning, you couldn’t play him because he’s basically been sat in a hotel for over a week which is not ideal but there’s nothing we can do.
“It is what it is, there’s nothing we can do. The rules are the rules. Thankfully his manager and the Cape Verde FA were really understanding of our position and the deal was just to play the Cameroon game and fly straight out.
“When we spoke to Pico, he was willing to do whatever we needed him to do but I felt it was important he went and played the game, it was his first start, against Cameroon, they win it and they have a massive chance of qualifying.
“We had a good conversation between us all and we all felt it was the right thing for him to play the game even though he was going to miss this week for us.”
For the rest of the Rovers squad, the Dundalk game represents a return to action after last weekend’s game against Derry City was postponed due to goalkeeper Nathan Gartside’s call up by Northern Ireland.
The 23-year-old couldn’t participate in the international squad in the end because medication he takes for a pre-existing heart condition hadn’t been properly cleared with Uefa and there was frustration around the Dublin club that the league game couldn’t be rescheduled.
“Yeah,it is frustrating, really frustrating,” says Bradley, “because the season has just started, we’ve been off for a long time. Things like that can be solved… spoken about and dealt with.
“We offered to play the game midweek before or after, we offered to play the game whenever suited Derry. But it was out of our hands, what can you do? We trained, though, it was good, it gave us time to relax and really look at the Pat’s game and this game and the schedule that’s coming up.”