Kenny optimistic about continuation of sport during coronavirus crisis

Wed, Oct 14 2020

Stephen Kenny Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

Stephen Kenny has admitted that it is “hard to believe” a false positive coronavirus test ruled Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah out of last Thursday’s shoot-out defeat to Slovakia. 

Speaking at a press conference in Helsinki before Ireland’s UEFA Nations League clash with Finland, Kenny repeated that Ireland’s “stringent” coronavirus rules left FAI authorities with no choice but to “abide by the law”. 

Asked about the danger posed to the international game in light of a burgeoning pandemic, Kenny remained optimistic. 

“I think it's difficult to be certain, but I think in life there are challenges and society must exist, and you must try and overcome hurdles in your life or in society.

“I think we've always had to overcome obstacles and sport is an important part of life.

“People need something to look forward to. And the Irish national team are very important within Irish sporting life, you know, hugely important.”

“I think its great if it does continue. Obviously we've had setbacks, and people have to review that, but you would hope, it's good news if it continues that's for sure.”

Between injuries and players ruled out due to virus test results, Ireland were without 13 of their squad members for Tuesday’s scoreless draw against Wales. Despite the circumstances, Kenny said that his side did “remarkable well”. 

“Considering the 13 players were unavailable, I think they did really well, and were unfortunate not to win really.”

Kenny confirmed that there were some changes made to the Ireland squad’s travel arrangements before flying to Finland today, but did not share the details of these changes. 

“I spoke to [the FAI operations director] yesterday in relation to the flight plan, so we did change some things.

“There's no experts at the moment in this, because it's a real learning curve for so many people.

These changes come after Connolly and Idah were ruled out of the Slovakia match when they were deemed close contacts of an FAI staff member who tested positive for coronavirus.

Connolly and Idah had been sitting 1.9m and 1.7m respectively from the staff member on their flight from Dublin last week. 

Both Idah and Connolly are back in the squad for Wednesday’s game. 

Kenny maintained that the Galwegian’s club, Brighton, were co-operative when he was given the go-ahead to rejoin the Ireland team. 

“Brighton have been fantastic. The manager Graham Potter… He understands the importance of playing for your national team and he's been brilliant really.”

Asked about the possibility of playing Connolly as part of a two-man attack, Kenny said it was a “possibility”. 

“Certainly, Aaron has that versatility that he can play in different positions. Of course we're not tied to one system.”

Kenny is expecting a difficult match tomorrow, and praised Finland for their “very good team ethic”. 

“Finland are a very very good team. They proved that by getting to the European Championships.

“I think they're nearly like a club team, in that they're very certain, very consistent in their selection, and all the players are very certain of their roles in the team.

“They can play in different ways, different tactical systems. Finland have maximized their resources very, very well”, he added.