Stephen Kenny rues squad disruption as Republic of Ireland draw another blank

Stephen Kenny cited mitigating factors after his wait for a first win as Republic of Ireland manager was extended to five games in Finland.

Fredrik Jensen’s 66th-minute strike secured a 1-0 Nations League win for the Finns in Helsinki as Ireland once again drew a blank at the end of a punishing three-match sequence over the last week.

The defeat in Finland followed last Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off exit on penalties in Slovakia and a 0-0 home draw with Wales at the weekend, but Kenny’s task was made all the more difficult by the coronavirus protocols and injuries which decimated his squad.

The manager told Sky Sports: “We’ve lost eight players through Covid-related issues and we have three players, including our captain Seam Coleman and Harry Arter, who pulled out of the original squad, and then we lost David McGoldrick and James McCarthy, so there are mitigating factors.

“The fact that we could lose eight players the morning of the Welsh game and go and play reasonably well and hold our own against them speaks volumes for the players, really, because they didn’t lose in Slovakia, where they were absolutely exceptional.

“Finland played well at times and so did we. It was a pretty even match. Again, we are in the dressing-room wondering did we deserve to lose that, and the answer is no, we probably didn’t.

“The players have shown real character and the young players that have come in have shown a great mentality, and I am optimistic that they will go on to be important players for Ireland.”

Ireland once again created chances – full-back Enda Stevens hit the crossbar three minutes before what proved to be the game’s only goal and Finnish keeper Lukas Hradecky made fine late saves from Matt Doherty and substitute Ronan Curtis to extend their goalless run to six-and-a-half hours of football.

But Teemu Pukki made the most of a rare error by Darren Randolph, picking off the keeper’s short goal-kick and crossing for Jensen – who scored the only goal in the meeting in Dublin last month – to again net the winner.

Kenny said: “You can’t legislate for a mistake sometimes and Darren has been very consistent for us. That is his 47th international for us tonight and he has been consistent for a number of years now.

“It’s one of those things you have to accept. It was a disappointing goal to concede, of course.”

Ireland are due to conclude their campaign in Wales and at home to Bulgaria.

But questions are being asked about the November fixtures following the disruption caused by Covid-19 this month.

However, Kenny said: “Society must still continue to exist amidst crisis. You must try to live as normally as you can.

“Do you cancel everything? For how long do you cancel it? Do you cancel it until the vaccine is found? When is that? Nobody has the answer to that.

“Do you just give up? Or do you still accept there will be issues? These are things that have to be discussed.”

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