Belfast Telegraph

Monday 30 May 2016

Never on a Sunday? How is the Giro different from Northern Ireland football?

By Steven Beacom

Published 28/02/2014

Hot ticket: A leg of the Giro d'Italia will take place in Northern Ireland on a Sunday
Hot ticket: A leg of the Giro d'Italia will take place in Northern Ireland on a Sunday

BY now I am sure you are aware that the Northern Ireland football team will be playing a match next year at Windsor Park on a SUNDAY.

On March 29 2015, Finland will provide the opposition in a European Championship qualifier. It'll be the nation's first international next year and could be crucial in our hopes of making the 2016 finals.

What you may not know is that one of the world's biggest sporting events, the Giro d'Italia, will also be staged in Northern Ireland on a Sunday this year. May 11, for your information, when the race will travel through Armagh after a couple of days elsewhere in the country.

Maybe I missed it, but I can't recall there being many complaints about the Giro being on a Sunday in contrast to the outcry in certain quarters in relation to Northern Ireland's Windsor Park match on the Sabbath.

I respect people's beliefs, unless they bring danger to society, and in this case those against playing football on a Sunday have every right to air their views.

I can see where they are coming from. Growing up years ago, Sunday was very much seen as a day of rest in our house. It was different to other days.

I don't wish to enter into a theological debate about keeping the Sabbath day holy but for better or worse, times have changed and for many of us, especially those involved with sport, Sunday has become as much a working day as, say, Tuesday.

For those who see it as special, fair enough, but what I would welcome on the issues discussed this week is a little more consistency.

The Northern Ireland fixture is over a year away but already there has been talk of protests and demands for the Irish FA not to host the Euro qualifier and even pull out of the tournament.

There are scores of sports being played on Sundays and there is not a word about them. The forthcoming Giro d'Italia is a case in point.

Yes, the Northern Ireland team are breaking new ground but surely a big cycling race here on a Sunday, even if nobody from our wee country is racing in it, is exactly the same as a big football match on a Sunday.

They are both sports.

Of course cycling can be a fun pastime, but the Giro is one of the toughest races on the planet.

The riders in May will be competing to win, just like our footballers will be doing next March. As will Ulster GAA players, hockey players, golfers or athletes who will take part in their chosen fields on various Sundays here this year.

Yet right now the 'never on a Sunday' debate only surrounds football. It should not be treated differently.

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