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FAI Covid case that led to Connolly and Idah missing Slovakia defeat was false positive

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Aaron Connolly, right, and Adam Idah

Aaron Connolly, right, and Adam Idah

SPORTSFILE

Aaron Connolly, right, and Adam Idah

The Ireland camp are reeling after it emerged that the Covid-19 test which indirectly ruled Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah out of Thursday's playoff defeat in Slovakia was a false positive.

The FAI have confirmed Independent.ie's story this morning "that the staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 in Bratislava on Wednesday, 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.

"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," wrote an FAI statement.

"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 fresh twist as regards the loss of Connolly and Idah for the game in Bratislava has only served to compound frustration and anguish around that episode.

They weren't able to play as they were deemed close contacts of an FAI backroom staff member who received a positive Covid-19 diagnosis in Slovakia on Wednesday.

However, sources have told independent.ie that individual was tested again upon their return to Ireland and came back Covid negative, a fairly extraordinary development after Saturday was dominated by discussion of the chain of events that led to Connolly and Idah coming into close contact with this person on the flight over.

Effectively, this means that the players needlessly missed out on the fixture, although the FAI were following HSE protocols on the understanding that they were dealing with a positive case in that area of the plane.

The positioning of Connolly and Idah on board was a major talking point on Saturday, especially when Kenny confirmed the duo had not taken their designated seats, instead moving to a row behind the staff member who had tested negative before flying but positive a day later in Bratislava.

This latecomer to the Irish senior team bubble was drafted in after Monday's round of group tests which showed up one positive amongst the intended travelling delegation - two other people had to restrict their movements and stay behind as a consequence.

Only three tests were conducted for UEFA purposes in Slovakia on Wednesday morning - late playing addition Josh Cullen and two replacement backroom staff members, one of whom learned bad news about their result later that night.

This set off the sequence which resulted in 'close contacts' Connolly, Idah and two staff members missing the crunch encounter and staying in the hotel while Kenny's team lost on penalties.

The FAI had to arrange transport to bring the affected parties home on Friday at considerable expense.

The prospect of Connolly and Idah returning to the squad in time for Wednesday's game in Finland is thought to be a long shot although the FAI will try given it would technically be possible within rules and regulations.

But their clubs are in a position where they can exert strong influence.

The chaos around international football in the last week has caused deep concerns amongst clubs.

Kenny’s squad were all tested on Friday, but the process met with delays and the panel were not expected to know the full picture as regards the results until this morning with the FAI expecting to clarify the outcome ahead of the game with Wales - the teamsheet for the match will deliver its own update anyway.

Questions still linger about how the FAI managed the logistics of their Slovakian trip.

Squad members have queried whether plans should have involved a bigger plane or alternative arrangements that removed the prospect of close contact criteria becoming an issue on the flight - even if that meant two planes.

Still, the false positive bombshell is a wildcard angle to further cloud this unwelcome saga.

Last month, Dr Cillian De Gascun, the chair of Ireland's Covid-19 Expert Advisory Group, said that Ireland's testing system delivers a maximum of one false positive for every 500 tests conducted.

But this costly example occurred on Slovakian soil. This saga will rumble on, with Covid dramas constantly disrupting a crucial week for Kenny's side.

Online Editors


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