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dressing room support Kenny says ‘infectious’ Robinson is vilified for vaccine stance as Ireland skipper joins his defence

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Ireland captain John Egan has thrown his weight behind team-mate Callum Robinson. Credit: Sportsfile

Ireland captain John Egan has thrown his weight behind team-mate Callum Robinson. Credit: Sportsfile

Ireland's John Egan

Ireland's John Egan

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Ireland captain John Egan has thrown his weight behind team-mate Callum Robinson. Credit: Sportsfile

The Ireland camp have closed ranks and come out in support of Callum Robinson over the criticism he faced for his stance on refusing the Covid-19 vaccine with manager Stephen Kenny claiming the player had been “vilified” for his comments.

And captain John Egan also said that Robinson has his full backing in the face of a public backlash to Robinson’s stance on not getting vaccinated.

Robinson’s admission earlier this week that he has not yet been vaccinated, despite testing positive for Covid-19 twice, has led to a storm, but speaking in Baku ahead of today’s World Cup qualifier, Egan said he was behind Robinson.

“Cal was asked a question, he gave an answer. He didn’t come out and say he was against the vaccination or anything, so I was quite disappointed to see how many people jumped down his throat,” Egan said.

“Everybody can choose whether to get the vaccination or not, it’s a personal choice. As a team-mate, as a friend, I back my team-mates, I back my friends.

“It doesn’t mean that I believe the same way, it doesn’t mean that everybody is going to believe the same way, but I don’t think Cal came out and said he was against the vaccine, he simply just answered a question and said he hasn’t had it yet. As far as that’s concerned, Cal is a team-mate of mine, he’s a friend of mine and hopefully now he can kick on with Ireland and do well.”

Kenny was also staunch in his defence of his player. “He has attracted a lot of criticism because he just came into a press conference and where the vast majority of players refuse to answer the questions, he was open and transparent and he has been vilified for it,” Kenny told media in Baku.

“But he is a terrific person and I think all of the players would verify that. They really speak so well of him and he’s a very, very popular member of the squad. I think he said he wasn’t against the vaccination but just wanted more time to consider for different reasons, and that was his viewpoint at the time and we have to respect that.

“I don’t know everyone’s reasons. Some of them have valid reasons, some of them have beliefs, but the vast majority of players are vaccinated. It’s not been a factor or dominated the conversation in the camp as we have been very focused on the game.

“On Callum himself, he has been up front and honest and has been vilified. He is a breath of fresh air in our squad and everyone speaks so highly of him. He always comes in with a smile on his face. He’s infectious. He brings laughter to the dressing-room. People love him and he’s determined to do well.”

Robinson’s international career has been halted by Covid-19, with the player missing eight of the last 11 games due to two positive tests for the virus, and Kenny is eager to see the former Preston man move up a level for the national team.

“It is well documented that he has missed a number of games so he is determined to grab the opportunity and do himself justice. No doubt, he is one of our better attacking players and will be looking forward to getting on the pitch and doing well,” Kenny said.

“He wants to make an impact, and hasn’t been available to play for us for a while.

"He had a terrific game in Serbia initially in our first game of the campaign, so he is very determined to try to do well here. He scored a few goals recently for West Brom so hopefully he can carry that.”

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Defenders Egan and Shane Duffy have delivered the last two goals scored by an Irishman for Ireland (excluding the own-goal against Serbia), and while he’s proud of the threat which the Republic pose from set plays, he’s eager to see the side take the initiative tonight.

“We always want to carry a set-piece threat, it’s a big weapon to have, Irish teams have had it all through the years, if you can be a threat from set-pieces we have always tried to do that, every time we have a set-piece we believe we can score,” Egan said.

“We need to try and be on the front foot and take the game to them. We have good players attacking-wise and have the quality to hurt teams. It’s all about composure and when that opportunity comes, it’s all about taking it.”


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