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Ireland boss Stephen Kenny would prefer to have all his players vaccinated

Republic of Ireland Squad Announcement – FAI National Training Centre
(Image credit: Niall Carson)

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has revealed he is having to try to persuade some of his players to have Covid-19 vaccinations despite the disruption the pandemic has caused them.

Ireland’s hopes of making it to the delayed Euro 2020 were dealt a blow when strikers Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were ruled out of their play-off semi-final in Slovakia in October last year as close contacts of another passenger on the flight to Bratislava who had tested positive, while Kenny later lost eight players from the camp in total.

However, ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia, Kenny revealed the vaccination picture is mixed.

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Speaking as he announced a 25-man party, he said: “A number of players have had vaccines and some haven’t. Some have had one.

“In England, the AstraZeneca vaccine has quite a long period between first and second, so a couple of players have been caught with the first one, and some players have decided not to get it, so that’s where it is.”

UK-based players would no longer have to isolate as close contacts of a third party who had tested positive if they had been double-jabbed, and Kenny admitted that was not lost on him and his medical staff.

Asked if he was pushing for all his players to opt for vaccination as a result, he said: “Yes, and that has happened with a player, for example, who had one vaccine and hadn’t had the second and wouldn’t have had to isolate.

“But that’s the situation we’re in. Ideally we’d want everyone vaccinated, but the players are men as individuals and they have the right to make their own decisions, and we have to respect that.

“In an ideal world, we would prefer to have everyone vaccinated and that wouldn’t be an issue, but you have to respect the individual wishes.”

West Brom striker Callum Robinson is currently self-isolating after testing positive for the second time, while Preston midfielder Alan Browne is close to a return to action after having to do the same as a close contact, and while neither has been selected, Kenny is hoping one or both could yet join up later in the window.

Asked about Robinson, who has scored three times in four games for the Baggies this season, Kenny said: “The fact that you get it twice is incredibly unlucky. He’s just very unfortunate.”

Burnley's Nathan Collins (right) has received a first senior Republic of Ireland call-up

Burnley’s Nathan Collins (right) has received a first senior Republic of Ireland call-up (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Kenny’s comments came after Premier League and EFL clubs announced their decision not to allow players to travel to countries on the UK Government’s red list during the forthcoming international break, prompting FIFA president Gianni Infantino to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask for exemptions.

Brighton’s Connolly and Newcastle midfielder Jeff Hendrick are back in the squad after missing June’s friendlies against Andorra and Hungary, while there is a first senior call-up for Burnley defender Nathan Collins.

Ireland resume their Group A campaign pointless after defeats by Serbia and, embarrassingly, Luxembourg, and an encounter with former European champions Portugal in Faro ahead of home clashes with the Azeris and the Serbs is a daunting prospect.

But Kenny said: “They have a quality team and it’s a big challenge for us, but one we should embrace and we should look forward to going to Portugal.

“It’s a great game for the players. They should be really excited about it and we’re looking forward to it.”