Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has defended the Covid-19 protocols in their camp, following the further positive tests among key players.
James McClean and Matt Doherty are the latest players to be ruled out of Wednesday's meeting with Bulgaria, after testing positive prior to Monday's flight to Dublin, adding to the previous Covid-related withdrawals of Callum Robinson and Alan Browne.
Doherty's Spurs manager Jose Mourinho made his feelings known with a sarcastic Instagram post about the importance of the international game, with his full back now set for a period of isolation.
But when asked if he had sympathy for the club managers sending players away on international breaks, Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny says his main concern is with the players, rather the clubs.
"Well I think first and foremost I've sympathy for the players themselves. Because it's quite traumatic for the players to get coronavirus in the situation like that and the effect on the families. I think that's lost sometimes.
"They put themselves out there, they sacrifice themselves and my sympathy would be to the player first of all. Secondly, it isn't ideal for clubs, we must acknowledge that it's not ideal at all and it's not ideal for international teams either. We all have to live with this situation at the moment," he said.
Stephen Kenny's squad have been hit hard by Covid-restrictions during his three blocks of games, but the manager has defended the way they have been operating, pointing out that their friendly with England last week was arranged specifically to limit travel, with the vast majority of his squad able to remain in the UK until after their Nations League game versus Wales last Sunday.
Kenny also says he has no issues with the decision of goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly to step away from the squad temporarily due to medical reasons.
Statement from Alan Kelly
➡️ https://t.co/SnVc5W1vJg pic.twitter.com/3wN6UEdX8f
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) November 16, 2020
"Alan is a great servant to Irish football and a terrific goalkeeping coach, he had concerns which he articulated, and I have no issue with that at all, I respect that," he said.
"In the last month we weren't hit with a lot infections, we were hit with close contacts. Maybe we adhered to the policies stricter than anybody else because we had the two metre rule, following the HSE guidelines.
"It's difficult to manage. All the protocols are followed to a high standard, but the virus doesn't discriminate," he added.
With the squad he has left to choose from, Kenny says a win tomorrow night against Bulgaria would be vital to sow the seeds ahead of the Word Cup qualification campaign in 2021.
And while he's still yet to win any of his seven games in charge, he says looking for the silver linings, such as the number of players who have got a taste of international football recently.
"We've come in for a bit of criticism and that's fair enough, that's part of the territory when you don't win games, I accept that. But one of the things we've seen is that we have a bit of depth; in both matches against Wales even though we were missing a high number of players we matched them for 90 minutes in both games, and had a lot of players missing.
"Wales have a been good template because they blooded a lot of young players three or four years ago. Now their players are into their 20s. We've blooded a lot of players in the last couple of months, more than any time in recent history, a lot of players are getting vital experience, and it's a great opportunity for some players against Bulgaria and hopefully they can take it."
Download the brand new OffTheBall App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!
Subscribe to OffTheBall's YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.