Stephen Kenny has admitted that members of his Republic of Ireland squad cannot be forced to take a vaccine for Covid-19 as the presence of the virus has once again impacted on his plans for key international games.
enny today named a 25-man squad for three qualifiers in the space of a week, and there was no place in the panel for stalwarts like Darren Randolph, James McCarthy, Ciaran Clark and Robbie Brady, though Kenny insists that the door is “absolutely not closed” for Randolph, who failed to make the cut, while McCarthy is sidelined by injury and could return to Ireland duty next month.
Alan Browne is unavailable for his club as he’s a close contact for a positive Covid-19 case at Preston. The Corkman is also held back by an injury, though he could play some part in the latter stages of this international break. Callum Robinson also missed out, his club West Brom confirming last night that the striker was one of two Baggies players who tested positive for Covid, the second time in less than a year where Robinson had contracted the virus.
Covid issues have hampered Kenny since he took charge last year and he said today that it was “not ideal” that not all squad members had taken the vaccine but insists it was a personal choice and out of his hands.
“A number of players have had vaccines, some haven’t, some have had one,” Kenny said.
“In England the AstraZeneca has a long period between the first and second doses, some players have been caught after the first one and some players decided not to get it.
“It has happened with one player who only had one vaccine, he hadn’t had the second and had to isolate. We’d want everyone vaccinated, but players are men as individuals, they have the right to make their own decisions and you have to respect that. In an ideal world we’d prefer to have everyone vaccinated but we have to respect the individual wishes,” he added.
“Alan [Browne] is a close contact so he hasn’t been involved with Preston but he also had an injury a glute injury, we’re not ruling out the idea that Alan and Callum could be involved for the second or third games, we’re exploring that and seeing how it goes.
“Callum’s had a terrific start to the season, I have been at a couple of his games, I have seen him score in the Hawthorns last week and the opening game of the season against Bournemouth, West Brom have had a flying start, himself and Dara O’Shea. He initially missed part of the camp when he was a close contact and then he got Covid, ahead of the November camp, so to get it twice is incredibly unlucky.”
Kenny said he was content to omit Randolph (34) as the West Ham man’s season has been disrupted after he contracted Covid, so he enters World Cup battle with Gavin Bazunu, Caoimhin Kelleher and Mark Travers as his keepers, but said the door remains open for Randolph to return.
“Darren has been a terrific goalkeeper for Ireland, he had good pre-season then he got Covid, which interrupted his training, he’s back training now but other three goalkeepers have been excellent recently, I am very happy with their form and they stay in the squad,” Kenny said.
“James [McCarthy] hasn’t been available to Celtic for the last eight or ten days, he’s not involved tonight [Europa League] either. He’s just played 15 minutes, we had a good conversation and realistically the October window is more realistic for James, if get gets games under his belt and feels well again,” added Kenny, who did not rule out the prospect of Robbie Brady training with the squad next week. Brady is currently working on his fitness in Dublin while trying to find a new club.
“I’m a massive fan of Robbie Brady,” Kenny said.
“I rate him very highly. He has been in all my squads but just had an Achilles injury that he has got sorted back. He’s back training and he I’m sure maybe October is more realistic for him, signing for a club and getting fixed up and getting some matches under his belt.
“He’s still so young and he has got so much football left in him. He’s such a talent. It’s only a few years since he was probably our most talented player in the country. He’s well capable of rediscovering some of that form and we’d love him back in the squad.”