Cork's Kevin Long to start for Ireland against Wales after Covid disruption

Cork's Kevin Long to start for Ireland against Wales after Covid disruption

Cork's Kevin Long during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FIVE players have been ruled out of the Republic of Ireland's Nations League clash with Wales on Sunday afternoon after one of them tested positive for coronavirus.

That rules Cork duo John Egan and Alan Browne out of the match, while Leesider Kevin Long and former Cork City striker Shane Long, are among the players called into the starting 11 as a consequence. Bandon's Conor Hourihane will be in the line-up too, while Caoimhín Kelleher is included as back-up keeper, with former City forward Seanie Maguire also on the bench.

The Football Association of Ireland have confirmed one unnamed player tested positive on Friday following the squad's return from Slovakia after a negative test on Monday, and four others deemed to be close contacts on Saturday night - Egan, Callum Robinson, Callum O'Dowda and Browne - have since been stood down.

Ireland's John Egan dejected after the loss to Slovakia on Thursday night. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Ireland's John Egan dejected after the loss to Slovakia on Thursday night. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

An FAI statement said: "Stephen Kenny's Ireland squad has received one positive Covid-19 test result ahead of today's Nations League game against Wales at the Aviva Stadium, after the latest round of UEFA testing.

"A player - who cannot be named at this time - tested positive on Friday after a negative test on Monday but his case is not related in any way to that of the backroom team member who tested positive on Monday last.

"Talks with the HSE late last night identified four other players as close contacts of this positive case and they have been stood down from the matchday squad for today's game against Wales."

The news comes three days after strikers Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were withdrawn from the squad - Connolly had been due to start - hours before the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final clash with Slovakia, which Ireland went on to lose 4-2 on penalties.

That decision was taken after a non-football staff member had tested positive in Bratislava with both players having sat close to him on the flight out of Dublin.

However, the FAI has revealed that test had actually produced a "false positive" result.

The statement continued: "In a separate development, the FAI can now reveal that the staff member who tested positive for Covid-19 in Bratislava on Wednesday, may have received a 'false positive' result.

"Two further tests carried out on the individual on Saturday 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 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."

The development has left manager Stephen Kenny facing a major reshuffle ahead of the Wales game and the trip to Finland which follows on Wednesday evening.

The statement said: "Manager Stephen Kenny will review his options for Wednesday's UEFA Nations League game in Finland after today's fixture against Wales. The FAI will review all COVID-19 protocols with UEFA and the HSE after the Finland game."

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