Boss Stephen Kenny expressed sorrow for Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah after they were forced to miss the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 showdown with Slovakia.
Brighton striker Connolly, 20, was due to start Thursday night’s game in Bratislava while 19-year-old Norwich striker Idah was ready to come off the bench before they were ruled out because they had been sitting too close to a member of staff who later tested positive for coronavirus on the flight over.
Kenny, who was forced into a reshuffle hours before kick-off, said: “I really felt for the two players, Aaron and Adam. They’ve come through the Under-15s with Ireland all the way up to the Under-21s.
“They can still play for the Under-21s and they’re playing in a match to get their team to the European Championships and it’s derailed on the afternoon of it.
“They are perfectly fine. Under UK law, they are fine to continue playing with distances and so forth. It’s just obviously different medical rules in Ireland over distances, and that’s something that’s hard to believe, really.
“But it’s just something that we’re going to have to accept.”
However, Kenny refused to criticise the arrangements which meant the two players came into contact with the infected non-playing member of staff.
He said: “Listen, we have a lot of great staff here, there are a lot of good people here and I think this is a situation that is unprecedented, for sure. It’s something that we just have to contend with.
“Without doubt, everyone can learn, but it’s an unfortunate situation and one that we have to live with.”
Ireland, who face Wales in the Nations League at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, ultimately lost 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw at the Narodny Stadium, with Alan Browne one of two men to miss from the spot.
The Preston midfielder, who had hit a post during extra time, was targeted by social media trolls in the immediate aftermath, but took the abuse on the chin.
Browne said: “When things like that happen, you obviously have the weight of the nation on your shoulders, so people are going to be upset, they are going to say things in the heat of the moment that maybe they don’t mean, maybe they do.
“But either way, I won’t let it bother me. One week you’re a hero, the next you’re the villain. That’s just the way the game is.”