In Stephen Kenny's short time as Ireland manager, he's experienced more squad withdrawals than some managers will suffer in a career.
He's had to contend with numerous injuries, suspensions, personal issues, and even a retirement. Most of all though, Covid has absolute ravaged the Ireland squad. From losing Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah for the pivotal playoff with Slovakia after close contact with someone who turned out to be a false positive, to losing six players for the next games against Wales and Finland, due to two positives tests and four close contacts. A further four players have tested positive in the current camp, with Callum Robinson and Alan Browne ruled out, before Matt Doherty and James McClean both tested positive yesterday.
The spate of infections during the international window around the world has led many to question whether sending players outside of their club bubble for internationals is best policy at the moment. José Mourinho, who has lost Doherty and Son Heung-min this week, posted on Instgram yesterday, criticising the whole thing.
Speaking at his press conference ahead of Ireland's final Nations League game with Bulgaria tomorrow, Kenny responded to the complaints of Mourinho, saying the players who have got the virus are a bigger concern to him than club managers.
First and foremost, I’m sympathetic towards the players themselves because it’s quite traumatic for a player to get coronavirus in a situation like that and the effect on their families. I think that’s lost sometimes.
First of all, we must have a degree of sympathy for the players themselves. They put themselves out there, they sacrifice themselves. My sympathy would be to the players first of all.
Secondly, yes, it isn’t ideal for clubs, we must acknowledge that it’s not ideal at all, and it’s not ideal for international teams either.
We all have to live with this situation at the moment.
Asked why it seems Ireland are being more affected by Covid than other international squads, Kenny suggested overly strict HSE guidelines were to blame in October.
“Last month, we weren’t hit with a lot of infections, we were hit with close contacts because we adhered to the policies a lot stricter, maybe, than anyone else because we had that two-metre rule and were following the HSE guidelines.
“We didn’t have any more than anyone else, I would say, but we had eight ruled out, two with it and six with close contacts in the last camp. Obviously with this camp, we’ve had four ruled out with it.
“It’s difficult to manage it. A lot of the protocols have been followed to a high standard, but just sometimes the virus doesn’t discriminate.”
With the withdrawals of McClean and Doherty, Kenny is now without 13 of the players who originally got together for the current camp just nine days ago.
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