Stephen Kenny wants all his players to be vaccinated but the Republic of Ireland manager also admitted that he has to respect the growing trend of professional athletes rejecting a injection despite overwhelming evidence that it would protect them from Covid-19.
“A number of players have had vaccines some haven’t,” said Kenny at the announcement of a 25 man squad to face Portugal at Estádio Algarve on Wednesday.
“Some have [ONLY]had one. In England the AstraZeneca has a long period between the first and second [JABS], a couple have been caught with just the first one, some players have decided not to get it.”
Kenny must plan without two key players, Alan Browne and Callum Robinson, who were both set to feature in Ireland's third World Cup qualifier, as Browne is a close contact and Robinson has contracted the virus.
Browne is also carrying an injury but should Robinson recover early next week, he can join the squad for the Azerbaijan and Serbia matches in Dublin.
“Ideally we want everyone vaccinated but players are men and as individuals they have the right to make their own decision and we have to respect that. In an ideal world we would prefer to have everyone vaccinated but you have to respect individual wishes.”
Kenny has passed over Newcastle centre half Ciaran Clark, veteran West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph and James McCarthy, who is injured again after joining Celtic this summer.
The two squads released this afternoon are incomparable. Portugal manager Fernando Santos has named 25 players that represent all the major European leagues, including eight Premier League starters, which could be nine should Manchester City lure Cristiano Ronaldo away from Juventus before the transfer window closes on August 31st.
In stark contrast, Kenny's group might pull from eight Premier League clubs, but only Seamus Coleman at Everton and Shane Duffy at Brighton are regular starters this season.
There is an increasing number Irish players in the English Championship and League One, particularly teenagers Gavin Bazunu and Troy Parrott, who are on loan to Portsmouth and MK Dons from Man City and Spurs respectively.
Josh Cullen is playing regularly for Anderlecht in the Belgium top flight and Jamie McGrath is at Scottish club St Mirren, with no League of Ireland players making the cut, although Kenny stated that Shamrock Rovers defender Liam Scales is "next man up" should there be another injury on the left side.
If Kenny was to pick his team on the basis that players need to be playing regularly then Bazunu would be preferred ahead of Liverpool's Caoimhin Kelleher. Same goes for Seamus Coleman at right back in a flat back three of Shane Duffy, John Egan and in form West Brom centre half Dara O'Shea.
James McClean appears to have been readied for a specific job on the left side of a five man defence in Portugal.
Midfield is a far trickier proposition. Gavin Kilkenny's impressive start to Bournemouth's Championship campaign has been overlooked despite Harry Arter, Jayson Molumby and Conor Hourihane struggling to make their match day squads at English clubs.
“At least three players could move clubs this week,” said Kenny. “That will be a factor.
“Harry Arter has been playing under 23s for Nottingham Forest. It is not ideal. I suppose he is a natural defensive midfield player so he is different than the others in that he can play the holding position.”
This indicates that Kenny is trading on past reputation with Jeff Hendrick, another reserve central midfielder at Newcastle United, Arter and Cullen competing to start in Portugal.
Up front, Parrott is the only regular goal scorer at club level, albeit in League One. Aaron Connolly has only come off the bench so far for Brighton but injuries at the Premier League club means he should have a chance to break his duck this Saturday when Coleman's Everton visit the Amex.
The door has been left ajar for Robbie Brady to return to the squad in October, once he finds a new club, when Ireland plays Azerbaijan in Baku.
“I am a massive fan of Robbie Brady, I rate him very highly, he has been all my squads. He got an Achilles injury sorted out and is back training.
“Robbie is still so young,” Kenny added of the 29 year old Dubliner, “there is so much football left in him. He is such a talent. It’s only a few years ago that is probably the most talented player in the country. He is well capable of rediscovering some of that form. We’d love him back in the squad.”
Republic of Ireland
Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Portsmouth, on loan from Manchester City), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth).
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion), John Egan (Sheffield United), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Nathan Collins (Burnley).
Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Harry Arter (Nottingham Forest), Jamie McGrath (St. Mirren), Jayson Molumby (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Attackers: Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion), James Collins (Cardiff City), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Adam Idah (Norwich City), Troy Parrott (MK Dons, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Shane Long (Southampton), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth).
Unavailable due to injury: Enda Stevens, Callum O'Dowda, Jason Knight, Chiedozie Ogbene
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyon), Diogo Costa (Porto) and Rui Patrício (Roma).
Defenders: Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City), Domingos Duarte (Granada), Gonçalo Inácio (Sporting), Pepe (Porto), Rúben Dias (Manchester City), João Cancelo (Manchester City), Nuno Mendes (Sporting), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund).
Midfielders: Danilo Pereira (Paris St Germain), João Palhinha (Sporting), Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), João Mário (Benfica), João Moutinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Otávio (Porto).
Forwards: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), André Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia), Pedro Gonçalves (Sporting CP) Rafa Silva (Benfica).
September 1st - Portugal v Republic of Ireland, Estádio Algarve, 7.45pm
September 4th - Republic of Ireland v Azerbaijan, Aviva Stadium, 5pm
September 7th - Republic of Ireland v Serbia, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm