Football/Soccer

We aim to be back after two-week circuit-breaker: NIFL chief Gerard Lawlor

Gerard Lawlor says local football's circuit breaker will be for only two weeks

NORTHERN Ireland Football League [NIFL] chairman Gerard Lawlor is confident the Irish Premiership’s two-week circuit-breaker won’t be extended as player and staff Covid testing is set to be introduced.

Cliftonville’s 2-2 draw with Crusaders was the only fixture to survive Covid and the inclement weather conditions on Saturday with both managers Paddy McLaughlin and Stephen Baxter in full agreement with the temporary halting of games.

On Friday night, NIFL announced a two-week circuit-breaker in a bid to help slow the spread of the virus in the football community.

With fears the two-week break will be extended, as infection rates are expected to soar over the next couple of weeks, Lawlor commented: “I don’t think it will be longer than two weeks. That’s not our thought process. It’s not our intention to extend things.”

With testing now on the table for players and staff over the coming weeks, the Cliftonville chief added: “NIFL will be involved in testing [along with the IFA].

“We’ve committed to doing something; we don’t know what that is yet. We’re simply taking a bit of time off to let things settle. Ultimately, if things get 10 times worse we’ve no control over that but at the minute that’s our plan.”

Rory Hale, who grabbed his first goal for his new club in Saturday’s draw, said that being able to play football has helped his mental health.

Speaking after Saturday’s derby, the north Belfast man said: “I think everything that has gone on since the league has gone back has been brilliant. I know there is no individual testing but the way everything is run – the temperature checks, social distancing, it’s very rare you’re going to catch it on the pitch.

“Obviously I’ve vulnerable people at home – my Granda and my mum – but it’s given me a wee lift, knowing I’m going to training… I hope the two-week break doesn’t get extended. With the testing coming back in, it can get everything rolling again.”

Lawlor also noted that he felt safer attending football matches than anywhere else during the steep rise in Covid19 cases.

“It gives people a purpose. People are sitting at home watching the game, so that is good. You just can’t stop the world. I’m not being funny about this but I feel safer inside Solitude than I do in some supermarkets. I didn’t go to our match a few weeks ago and I walked up the Ormeau Road and it was hectic with so many people.”

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Football/Soccer