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Dublin: 11°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Connolly and Idah missed Euro play-off as they sat in wrong seats on plane

Another two Irish players also sat in the wrong seats, but none were told to move.

Aaron Connolly, file photo.
Aaron Connolly, file photo.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRISH FORWARD DUO Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah missed Thursday’s Euro 2020 playoff with Slovakia as they sat in the wrong seats on the flight to Bratislava. 

Connolly and Idah were forced to miss the game as they had to self-isolate as close contacts of a Covid-positive, non-playing member of the travelling FAI party. Connolly and Idah sat beside each other in the back row of the plane, in seats not allocated to them. 

These seats at the back were reserved for the non-playing members of the FAI’s travelling party, with players and management staff to be seated at the front. Another two Irish players also sat in seats at the back of the plane, across the aisle from Connolly and Idah. 

The players and management boarded the plane before the non-playing members of the backroom staff, and neither Connolly, Idah nor the other two players were told they had inadvertently sat in the wrong seats when boarding was completed. 

Idah and Connolly ultimately found themselves sitting behind – and less than the two metres mandated under Irish public health guidelines from – the member of staff who later tested positive for the virus. 

Although all wore masks and the member of staff did not interact with Connolly or Idah, the players were deemed close contacts as they spent more than two hours sitting at a distance of 1.7 and 1.9 metres.

The FAI appealed to the HSE in the hope they would be allowed to play, but to no avail. 

Connolly and Idah have now returned to Brighton and Norwich respectively. The reason behind the players’ absence was not made public due to an agreement struck between the FAI and the players’ clubs.

The other two Irish players sitting across the aisle from Connolly and Idah were not forced to self-isolate as they were sitting more than two metres from the Covid-positive member of staff. 

This story ultimately began before departure for Bratislava, as a non-playing member of the travelling party tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, which forced him and two close contacts from the same department to pull out of the trip. 

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A fourth employee from the same department was then drafted into the trip, justified by the fact this employee had been preparing to work with the Irish U21 squad and had returned a negative test result on Sunday. However, the employee tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, the night before the game, following another test in Bratislava. The employee was asymptomatic. 

Speaking at his pre-match press conference earlier this afternoon and without getting into the specifics of why the players missed the game, Stephen Kenny admitted the situation should not have arisen. 

“Certainly it’s not something that should have arisen, and we’re disappointed with it”, said Kenny. 

He als0 confirmed Aaron Connolly would have started the game, but will now be without him and Idah for the Nations League games with Wales and Finland. 

“What happens in house should sort of stay in house but certainly, realistically, it was a non essential football member, he wasn’t a football member in terms of a crisis situation that travelled and that’s…. that’s something that we have to live with.”

Ireland face Wales at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow afternoon, with their forward ranks greatly depleted. Along with Connolly and Idah’s absence, David McGoldrick is out with an adductor injury. Daryl Horgan and Sean Maguire have been added to the squad as replacements. 

James McCarthy is also doubtful for tomorrow’s game with the injury that forced him off in Slovakia.

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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