Stephen Kenny has admitted the Republic of Ireland will have to live with their Euro 2020 play-offs exit after events conspired against them on and off the pitch.
Ireland will take no part in the finals, for which Dublin is one of the host cities, after losing their play-off semi-final on penalties in Slovakia on Thursday evening.
Kenny had to re-draw his blueprint minutes before kick-off in Bratislava after Aaron Connolly, who would have started, and substitute Adam Idah, had to be withdrawn because of their proximity on the journey over to a member of staff who later tested positive for coronavirus, and then saw chances to win the game go begging.
He said: “It’s something that we are going to have to live with for a long time. That’s the nature of penalty shoot-outs and the chances that we had to win the game right at the end and in extra time.
“Slovakia themselves had efforts – it was a tough game. They are a good team, but we showed, even without the players that we were missing and the changes and all of that…
“Everything we worked on, we had to change some of that, so with that in mind, the players were excellent overall.”
The situation with Connolly and Idah, who had to be withdrawn after sitting just 10cm and 30cm respectively too close to the staff member who was infected, was the subject of a failed appeal and while Kenny knows their presence may not have made the difference, he hinted that lessons would have to be learned.
He said: “What happens in-house should stay in-house, but certainly realistically, it was a non-essential football member and that’s something that we have to live with.
“There’s no doubt that it was hugely disappointing, hugely disappointing. We’re very, very disappointed about that.
“Aaron was selected in the team and Adam would have been a good attacking option for us as well, and to find out on the matchday, and then a bit of a saga because the possibility existed of an appeal and so forth in the situation, it wasn’t good preparation on the matchday because we were having discussions about it and impact of it rather than the match itself.
“But listen, there’s nothing we can do about it. The players were excellent on the night. There were no guarantees if we had the two players.”
Kenny and his players have had little time during which to lick their wounds after launching straight into preparations for Sunday’s Nations League clash with Wales on their return.
Connolly and Idah cannot play and fellow striker David McGoldrick has been ruled out with an abductor injury, but whoever is selected will be sent out to play in similar fashion to the way the Republic did in Slovakia.
Kenny said: “They’ve shown that they are good players and what they are capable of. Obviously, we have to improve on that and finish our chances and create even more.
“They know themselves that we have a lot of potential in this team and that they are very capable footballers and are well capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams.”