Irish Footballs Return

The bundesliga is back. Premier league clubs back at training. What plans do the FAI have to bring football back in Ireland? And how long will it be until we start to see the sport return to normal?

Government plans have indicated that partial contact sports such as football may resume from July 20th. The GAA plans to sideline their plans until later this year, giving the FAI the chance to continue their season from August. But it could be even earlier that Irish football is back on your TV screens.

Four Team Tournament

Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City. These four teams have been invited to compete in a four-team tournament by the FAI. This tournament would have two functions. The primary function being to prepare these teams for Champions League and Europa League qualifiers. However, the tournament will also be used as a test run for a return to play behind closed doors matches. The competition can’t be played until July 20th at the earliest under government rules and will be played over two weekend’s. Home of irish football, the Aviva stadium is in contention to host the tournament, with Tallaght stadium also being considered.

23 February 2018; Joel Coustrain of Shamrock Rovers in action against Michael Duffy of Dundalk during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Will it be safe?

Players and staff have been tested as this four team tournament is set to be rolled out under the supervision of medical director Dr Alan Byrne. Shamrock Rovers Jack Byrne told FAI TV that “the test was fine. We just got a little swab taken at the back of our throats and it was all done in less than 20 seconds. We’re happy to get it done as it’s another step closer to training soon.”

But the return of football across the board relies on the pilot programme going well. “We have begun a process for players of all levels. We will test the players from these four clubs again before they return to training on June 8th and then regularly when they’re back”, said Dr Byrne. ” Everything we do now is designed to ensure that football can return for everyone as soon as it’s safe and responsible”, he added.

How it works in Germany

“It did feel unusual, but it was still football”. The reaction of almost every football fan after watching ‘the return of football’. With the world eyes watching how did their return go? Despite lockdown restrictions being eased, football returned behind closed doors in an almost empty stadium. A maximum of 300 people were allowed into each stadium. All those entering the stadium needed to do through the necessary safety checks upon entry, temperature checks were taken and face masks had to be worn.

It certainly was an experience. Every pass could be heard on the microphones, managers could be heard from home. “It was very, very special”, Lucien Favre, Dortmund coach said in his virtual post match news conference. “There’s no noise, you create a chance, play a top pass, a goal…nothing. it’s very, very weird. We miss our fans very much.”

Did the fans comply?

A major concern was the congregation of fans outside the stadium. However, this wasn’t a problem in Germany. The threat of the game being abandoned was enough of a deterrent.

Players were also instructed by authorities that in the aftermath of a goal, to avoid celebrating with their teammates. But this wasn’t always followed, as could be seen after Matheus Cunha’s stunning solo goal. Strict protocols were also followed off the field. Substitutes were sat apart from eachother on the bench whilst all wearing masks. But however different or strange it all was, but so far the bundesliga experiment, was a major success for football. “It’s a bummer we can’t be inside the stadium to watch” one fan said, “but at least football is back, we have something to do with our weekends”.

The return of Irish football is nearing, and a plan is taking place, let’s just hope everything goes to plan, and is back to normal sooner rather than later.

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