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Five players withdrawn from Ireland squad for Wales clash due to positive Covid case

Meanwhile, the Covid test that led to Connolly and Idah missing play-off may have been a false positive.

Ireland will take on Wales at the Aviva Stadium later today.
Ireland will take on Wales at the Aviva Stadium later today.

Updated Oct 11th 2020, 12:21 PM

FIVE PLAYERS HAVE been withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland squad ahead of their Uefa Nations League clash with Wales today, following a positive Covid-19 case.

The FAI has a released a statement which says that the player, who cannot be named at this time, tested positive on Friday after a negative test on Monday.

His case is not related in any way to that of the backroom team member who tested positive last Monday.

The statement goes on to say that talks with the HSE late last night identified four other players as close contacts of this positive case. As a result, they have been stood down from the matchday squad for today’s game against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

Separately, the FAI has confirmed that the Covid test that caused Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah to miss Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off may have received a ‘false positive’ result.

The individual had two further tests for Covid-19 on Saturday which have confirmed no trace of Covid-19. The HSE and UEFA have been informed of this result. The FAI will now discuss the issue with UEFA.

“In light of these developments,” the statement concludes, “the FAI wishes to make it clear that it complied with all Uefa and HSE Covid-19 guidelines concerning the availability of players and the well-being of staff around the Slovakia v Republic of Ireland fixture in Bratislava on Thursday night.”

The42 has learned the FAI employee who tested positive for the virus in Bratislava yesterday tested negative, having sought a private test upon return in Ireland. 

The employee has now had four Covid tests in the last seven days, three of which returned negative results. 

Connolly and Idah were forced to miss the game as they were deemed close contacts of the travelling member of staff, as they sat less than two metres from him on the flight to Slovakia. Connolly and Idah inadvertently sat in the wrong seats to the back of the plane, seats that were reserved for non-playing members of the travelling party. 

Now, in an astonishing twist, it transpires the players needed not miss the game at all. 

The42 understands the FAI are exploring the possibility of bringing Idah and Connolly back for the Finland game next Wednesday, but both will miss today’s game with Wales. 

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This story began on Tuesday afternoon, before the Irish squad departed for Bratislava, when a non-playing member of the FAI’s backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19. He and two close contacts were then forced to withdraw from the trip, with a colleague from the same department added to the flight at the last minute. 

This employee was allowed join the flight as he had returned a negative test result on Sunday, as he had been preparing to join the U21s for their qualifier in Italy.

On Wednesday afternoon, the employee received a second negative test result, from a test conducted on Tuesday morning when he was still with the U21 camp. 

However, this was deemed a private FAI test and not a Uefa-endorsed test, meaning he was required to take another test on the ground in Slovakia along with two other late additions to the party: a second backroom staff member and midfielder Josh Cullen, who was called up for the injured Harry Arter. 

This test was conducted by Slovakian public health authorities, and returned a positive result. As the FAI are abiding by HSE guidelines in return for a quarantine exemption to allow them train and play in Dublin, they were bound by the Irish rules around close contacts. 

Thus Connolly and Idah were identified as close contacts, as they sat less than two metres from the employee on the flight to Bratislava. 

The FAI appealed the decision to the HSE – pointing out that Connolly and Idah were 1.7m and 1.9m from the employee – but the Irish authorities weren’t for turning. 

There was much criticism of the FAI as to how the players could be deemed close contacts of a member of staff whose role has been described as “non-essential” by Stephen Kenny. 

Clarity on that emerged yesterday evening: Connolly and Idah sat in the wrong seats. Players and management were allocated seats to the front of the plane, with non-playing members to the back. 

The players boarded first, and Connolly, Idah, and two other players took vacant seats at the back of the plane. Nobody told them to move when boarding was complete. The employee of the false positive sat in front of them, and though he did not interact with Connolly and Idah throughout the flight and everyone wore masks, the players were identified as close contacts and ruled out of the game. 

All three – along with the two staff members sitting in front of said employee – were forced to isolate in their hotel rooms in Slovakia. Connolly and Idah returned to their clubs on Friday morning, with the three staff members returning on a. chartered flight later that evening. 

When the employee remained asymptomatic and continued to feel well upon return, he sought a private test that was conducted at his home yesterday. This test returned a negative result last night, shows he never had the virus in the first place, and that ultimately, Connolly and Idah did not have to miss the game. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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