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Kenny optimistic international football will continue as Covid hits players across Europe

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 13/10/2020 Gavin Cooney
Stephen Kenny holding a football ball: Stephen Kenny. © James Crombie INPHO Stephen Kenny.

IRISH MANAGER STEPHEN Kenny believes international football will continue as planned, in spite of an uptick in the number of footballers testing positive for Covid-19. 

Kenny has seen two players test positive for the virus, and has been deprived of the services of six others as they have been deemed close contacts, although two -Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly – have been allowed to return to their squad as their close contact returned a false positive result.

Kenny’s is far from the only squad affected by positive cases, and shortly before his pre-game press conference in Helsinki this afternoon, it was announced Cristiano Ronaldo had tested positive for the virus. 

Global players’ union FIFPro and the the powerful European Clubs Association met with Fifa last month to pressure to relax their punishments on clubs around the release of players for International duty, which they are currently obliged to do. 

With several high-profile players now facing a quarantine during club fixtures, the tension between clubs and international sides – with Fifa in the middle – is likely to intensify. 

Kenny, however, is optimistic international football can continue, with the next window scheduled for next month. 

“I don’t think it will be” said Kenny when asked if this would be Ireland’s last game for some time. “It’s difficult to be certain. In life, there are challenges, and society must exist, and you must try and overcome hurdles in your life and in society. I think it’s important. History has thrown up many challenges throughout the ages. We’ve always had to overcome obstacles.

Sport is an important part of life, people need something to look forward to. The Irish national team are very important in Irish sporting life. It’s the pinnacle of sporting life in Ireland, the Irish international football team. Along with other sports, it has a special place in the heart of the Irish supporters.

“It’s great if it does continue, obviously we’ve had setbacks, people have to review that. It’s good news if it continues, that for sure.” 

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Kenny meanwhile, confirmed there have been changes made to the flight plans to Helsinki, though declined to say what those changes were. 

He was also asked if he had confidence in the Covid testing regime, given one of his players returned two negatives and one positive results from three tests across Sunday night and Monday. 

He didn’t answer that question, instead lamenting the fact he lost Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah ahead of last Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off defeat to Slovakia. 

“It’s hard to believe we lost two players for the playoff at such a late stage because of a false positive connected to contact tracing. 

“I think, obviously, the rules. If it was a Dutch player, for example, he wouldn’t have had a problem because their rules are 1.5 metres. The HSE rules are much more stringent, the health authorities are much more stringent than anywhere else in Europe, I think. Other countries wouldn’t have been deemed as contact tracing. In our country we have to abide by the law, that’s what the medical department did.” 

Kenny’s side are looking for a first win in the Nations League against Finland tomorrow night, having lost 1-0 against the same opposition in Dublin last month. 

“The last game against Finland, was in the middle of the off-season. We can’t just say that for us; Finland also. It was a strange time. Finland, are a very, very good team, they proved that by getting to the European Championships, they are nearly like a club team in that they are very consistent in their selection and certain in their roles. They can play in different ways and tactical systems. Finland have maximised their resources.” 

The FAI have announced that James McCarthy has been ruled out of the Finland match through injury, but everyone else who travelled is fit and available for selection.

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