Stephen Kenny is confident international football will not fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic once again despite seeing his Republic of Ireland squad decimated in the last week.
Ireland face Finland in the Nations League on Wednesday evening three days after Covid-19 protocols and injuries robbed the manager of no fewer than 13 players for Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Wales.
Kenny will at least have strikers Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah available to him after they were allowed to return to the squad when it emerged that the member of non-football staff to whom they had been deemed to be sitting too close on last week’s flight to Slovakia had actually returned a false positive test.
Asked if he feared that next month’s fixture list could be scuppered by the virus, Kenny said: “I don’t think it will be, no.
“It’s difficult to be certain, but in life, there are challenges and society must exist and you must try to overcome hurdles in your life or in society, I think it’s important, history has taught us that.
“It’s thrown up many challenges throughout the ages and we’ve always had to overcome obstacles. Sport is an important part of life – people need something to look forward to – and the Irish national team is very important within Irish sporting life, hugely important.
“It’s the pinnacle of sporting life in Ireland, the Irish international football team along with other sports. It has a very special place in the heart of the Irish supporters.
“It’s great if it does continue. Obviously, we’ve had setbacks and people have to review that. It’s good news if it continues, that for sure.”
Kenny will be looking for his first win as Ireland manager at the fifth attempt in Helsinki with his team having managed a single goal in his first four games and none in the last three, although defender Enda Stevens is confident they are on the right track.
Stevens said: “We go into every game wanting to win and I think we’ve just been a little unfortunate that we haven’t got it.
“Slovakia wasn’t an easy place to go and I thought we were very unlucky; Wales, we created the better chances as well, so we’re trying to force the issue and it’s just a case of putting the ball in the back of the net.
“But the performances are there and hopefully it will all click.”