Stephen Kenny praised his players’ mettle after the Republic of Ireland squad was stripped of five members on the eve of their Nations League clash against Wales due to coronavirus issues.
The manager endured a pre-breakfast scramble to replace those ruled out and suffered a further blow when Stoke winger James McClean was sent off late on at the Aviva Stadium.
He is still awaiting his first win as the Republic’s manager after his depleted side was held to a 0-0 draw by Wales in Dublin.
"The team changes were a lot for the players to take in so the players showed great character…"
REPORT Ireland 0-0 Wales – Depleted Ireland held to a goalless draw with more call-ups expected ahead of Finland trip
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) October 11, 2020
Kenny said the players remaining had reacted brilliantly after one unnamed member of the squad tested positive for Covid-19.
“They are a really good group, they just showed their professionalism by performing to the level that they did,” he said.
Kenny said it had been a difficult time but that paled into insignificance compared to that suffered by the players themselves.
Most of them felt perfectly capable of playing and had to suffer the impact of the restrictions, their coach added.
“It was close to midnight when we found out last night,” he said.
“It was a lot of stuff today early. It all had to be done before breakfast.”
John Egan, Callum Robinson, Callum O’Dowda and Alan Browne were stood down on Sunday as close contacts and Derrick Williams was also missing from the 18 names on the teamsheet.
Kenny was already without Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah for similar reasons and Seamus Coleman, Darragh Lenihan, Harry Arter, James McCarthy and David McGoldrick were absent through injury.
The manager said his team took it in their stride.
“I think the players, it just shows a bit of depth to what we are doing at the minute,” said Kenny, who also felt there was a lot of pace missing from the front line.
“Everyone who played today acquitted themselves really, really well.
“Overall, we could have won the game, it was evenly-balanced, given there were not a lot of chances in the game.”
— FA WALES (@FAWales) October 11, 2020
He said they had the better opportunities despite the wider challenges, adding: “It speaks volumes of the players.”
Wales manager Ryan Giggs said he had no concerns about the virus ahead of the fixture.
He said: “We knew before the game what happened but we concentrated on what we needed to do and making sure we concentrated on what we can do.”
Wales were denied a penalty after Ireland’s goalkeeper Darren Randolph appeared to bundle over Ethan Ampadu in the box after dropping a high ball.
Giggs would only say it was clear his player did not commit a foul and acknowledged VAR could play a role in some situations.
“We have to get the players on the ball quicker,” he said, adding that Daniel James was having to come too deep as the ball was not coming to him.
“Our build-up play has to be better but you have to credit Ireland, they pressed well, they are an aggressive and physical side.”
Kenny recognised the effect the disruption to his preparations had on football across Ireland.
“There are serious, serious challenges, and a lot of anxiety with a lot of the clubs as well and there are lots of things we can learn,” he said.
“It is new territory for everyone, it has never existed, it is a new disease and we are all learning.”