Aaron Connolly uncertain for Brighton vs Crystal Palace after Covid-19 scare with Ireland
Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny insisted Brighton striker Aaron Connolly did not deserve to have his Euro 2020 dreams shattered in Slovakia on a night when coronavirus made a late impact.
Ireland forwards Connolly and Adam Idah were withdrawn from the squad shortly before kick-off after coming into close contact with a member of the backroom staff on the flight to Bratislava who later tested positive for Covid-19.
It's unclear at this stage if Connolly will be able to play in Brighton's next Premier League match at Crystal Palace on Sunday October 18 at 2pm.
Ireland nevertheless enjoyed the better of a tight encounter at the Narodny Stadium and Slovakia, who were themselves without defender Milan Skriniar and midfielder Stanislav Lobotka because of the virus, needed the help of the woodwork to deny substitute Alan Browne an extra-time winner as the game ended 0-0 and was ultimately decided on penalties.
Kenny told Sky Sports News: “The players didn’t deserve to lose the game. They gave absolutely everything of themselves.
"It’s just a cruel way to lose on penalty kicks."
Ireland left the stadium wondering what might have been on and off the pitch after Kenny had been forced to change his team at the last minute following the withdrawals of Connolly and Idah, who had both initially been named in the matchday 23.
He later revealed one had sat 1.7m and the other 1.9m from the member of staff who later tested positive on the plane to Slovakia and would have been allowed to play if they had been 2m away.
Asked about their absence, he said: “We have different rules in Ireland than you have in the UK, they’re much more stringent.
“They would be deemed close contacts to one of our non-footballing staff, but it was just very, very harsh that they were ruled out. They were perfectly fine, there’s nothing wrong with them, but they have the two metre rule in Ireland…
“If they were in the UK, they would have been perfectly entitled to play, but Ireland has more stringent rules and we had to abide by the medical advice.”
Skipper Shane Duffy, who produced a fine goal-line clearance to deny substitute Lukas Haraslin the opening goal, admitted a 4-2 shoot-out defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.
The Brighton defender who is on loan at Celtic said: “It’s never nice to lose on penalties, so it’s a tough one to take at the minute. We created chances and it just wasn’t our night.”