Aaron Connolly could line up against Finland on Wednesday evening, six days after being ruled out of the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia under coronavirus protocols.
Manager Stephen Kenny was dealt a major blow when the 20-year-old Brighton striker, who had been selected to start the game, and Norwich counterpart Adam Idah had to be withdrawn from the squad because a member of non-playing staff had tested positive for Covid-19.
Ireland ultimately lost the tie on penalties and, to rub salt into the wound, the Football Association revealed on the team’s return from Bratislava that the test in question had provided a “false positive” result, meaning the pair could have played after all.
An FAI statement on Monday morning said: “Republic of Ireland striker Aaron Connolly has rejoined the squad ahead of the UEFA Nations League match against Finland on Wednesday.
“Connolly has been given permission to rejoin the squad by the HSE (Health Service Executive) and travelled back to Dublin this morning.”
The two players had to sit out because they had been sitting within two metres of the supposedly infected staff member on the flight over, with Connolly, it was later revealed, just 10 centimetres too close.
Nineteen-year-old frontman Idah had already been given the all-clear to travel back to Dublin in the wake of Sunday’s 0-0 Nations League draw with Wales as Kenny was forced to reshape his squad after another raft of withdrawals.
John Egan, Callum Robinson, Callum O’Dowda, Alan Browne and Derrick Williams were all missing from a matchday squad which was reduced to just 18 players for the game at the Aviva Stadium after an unnamed played tested positive.
Their ranks were further depleted when defender Kevin Long had to leave the field with a badly swollen eye after a clash with Wales striker Kieffer Moore, and midfielder James McClean was later sent off for a second bookable offence.
Kenny, who was already without the injured Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, David McGoldrick, Harry Arter and Darragh Lenihan, has also called up West Brom defender Dara O’Shea and Derby’s Jason Knight, who were on U21 duty in Pisa ahead of Thursday’s European Championship qualifier against Italy, as well as QPR’s Ryan Manning and Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis.
Ireland have taken just two of the first nine Nations League points on offer – they drew 1-1 in Bulgaria before the stalemate against Ryan Giggs’ men either side of a 1-0 home defeat by Finland – and are yet to win in four attempts under their new manager.
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