Covid-19 restrictions are not music to Stephen Kenny’s ears

By Damian Spellman, PA
·3-min read

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has revealed the coronavirus pandemic has scuppered his hopes of introducing a little light relief into international football.

Kenny had planned to broaden the horizons of his players by bringing musicians into the camp and building upon an already commendable team spirit as he attempts forge a new way forward, only for Covid-19 restrictions to severely curtail his blueprint.

Kenny, whose on-field preparations last month were ripped apart by two positive tests which robbed him of a series of players, will be without West Brom striker Callum Robinson for Thursday night’s friendly against England at Wembley after he tested positive, but the virus has also had an impact off the pitch.

Declan Rice (right) won three senior caps for Ireland before accepting England's call
Declan Rice (right) won three senior caps for Ireland before accepting England’s call (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said: “I had this idea when I took over, I’d bring in musicians, really good musicians, because there is a lot of downtime – 10, 11 days, and 11 can be a long enough time in the hotel – to have a vibrant [atmosphere].

“There’s an interactive museum in Dublin, bring them into that, a sense of identity, all of that, link all that in. That’s what I was thinking, those sort of things.

“But we just had to forget all of that, really. You have to live your existence, you’ve got to wear masks, you’ve got to social distance. The players are in their rooms a lot, your meetings have to be less time and so forth. These are things you have to adapt to.”

The game could see Declan Rice and Jack Grealish line up against Ireland, for whom both played at Under-21 level with Rice having gone on to win three senior caps before opting to represent his native country.

However, skipper Seamus Coleman, who presented former Ireland international and world lightweight champion Katie Taylor with a shirt at the team hotel on Wednesday, insists that will not be brought up on the pitch.

He said: “Listen, Jack and Declan decided what they were going to do and it’s entirely up to themselves. We obviously just want to do well for ourselves, but there is going to be none of that childish stuff, definitely not.”

For 32-year-old Coleman, the trip to Wembley represents an opportunity to re-establish himself in the team after losing his place to Matt Doherty in September before missing out last month through injury.

While he will not look too far ahead, the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign is a focus.

He said: “In this game a loss of form, injury, anything is around the corner, so you just need to keep fighting and keep hungry on a daily basis.

“Obviously the long-term target is to qualify for the World Cup. That would be amazing. I’ve had the Euros, the World Cup would be amazing.

“But I’ve got to focus on a daily basis first, I think.”