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EXCLUSIVE 'We have to find a way' - Jack Byrne insists international football has to be played despite Covid-19 pandemic

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Jack Byrne during a Republic of Ireland training session at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Jack Byrne during a Republic of Ireland training session at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Jack Byrne during a Republic of Ireland training session at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland midfielder Jack Byrne has insisted international football needs to adapt to the challenges it is facing right now, after a week that has seen a host of players test positive to Covid-19 around the world.

Club managers have expressed concerns that playing international matches amid a global pandemic is a step too far, with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny and the Ireland trio of Matt Doherty, Callum Robinson and James McClean all testing positive during this international break.

Shamrock Rovers star Byrne pulled out of the Ireland squad last month after he tested positive for Covid-19 and revealed the struggle he endured in the days after he contracted the virus last month in an exclusive Sunday World interview last weekend.

Yet he believes calls for international football to be halted after an international break that has also seen a host of high profile injuries to big names players are misplaced.

"It's difficult to get these games on at the moment, we can all see that, but we have to find a way to do it," stated Byrne, speaking exclusively to the Sunday World at an event to promote the Coca-Cola HBC Youth Empowered programme.

"With what is going on in the world at the moment and travel restrictions, it is making international football hard to get these games on.

"Managers and players are facing different challenges. We are getting tested at the start of an international camp and when the results come through and someone gets a positive, we then have to work out who has been in close contact and what needs to happen next."

Bryne also leapt to the defence of under-fire Ireland boss Stephen Kenny, who heads into Wednesday night's game against Bulgaria in Dublin on the back of a run that has seen him fail to win any of his first seven games in charge, with his team failing to score in their last six matches.

Last month's Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia was arguably the best performance of the Kenny era so far, with the manager's plans for that game thrown into turmoil when strikers Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were ruled out after they came into close contact with an FAI staff member who tested positive for Covid-19.

"The situation in Slovakia was tough on so many levels," added Byrne. "The two lads are really good players and they were a big miss for us, especially Connolly, but then we had the news that the Covid result was a false positive that added to the disappointment.

"It was a difficult one for the manager to take, but I speak from experience when I say we have to respect Covid and we have to put everyone's health first.

"I think Stephen is doing a great job. We had a brilliant performance in Slovakia last month and we lost out on penalties, but we played so well in the game.

"We are all enjoying working with the manager. He is trying to get us to play a slightly different style of football and it will take time to get that right. We are all determined to give everything we can to get some wins on the board."

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