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Knights' tie axed over Covid concerns

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Paul Stirling

Paul Stirling

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Paul Stirling

A COVID-19 scare has forced the cancellation of Northern Knights' final T20 Interprovincial Trophy game against Munster Reds in Cork today.

A Northamptonshire player tested positive on Sunday and, although Paul Stirling, who is playing for the county in the T20 Blast this summer, was not in recent direct contact with the individual, three of Stirling's white-ball team-mates are flatmates with the positive player.

After playing on Thursday night for Northants, Stirling flew home to help North Down win the Robinson Services Cup courtesy of a semi-final win over Instonians and defeat of Waringstown in Sunday's final.

While he was not in the Knights squad for today's game, Stirling was in the same team as Ruhan Pretorius, who is, and also played against other squad members James McCollum, Shane Getkate and James Hunter, the young Instonians all-rounder who was due to make his Knights debut.

All three of the Northants player's flatmates have been tested, but only two of the results - both negative - had come back before the Knights squad was due to leave Belfast at lunchtime yesterday. The departure was put back by four hours but, with the result still unknown then, Cricket Ireland, as a precautionary measure, refused to let them travel and cancelled the match.

CI High Performance Director Richard Holdsworth said: "While highly unfortunate, we have taken a risk-management approach to our decision.

"There is absolutely no suggestion that Paul has contracted the virus but, until all three tests of his Northants team-mates have been returned, we don't know conclusively whether the chain of transmission has been broken.

"These are unprecedented actions, but we are concerned first and foremost with protecting the health and safety of players, staff, match officials, volunteers and those family members close to the players."

The safety-first approach could also have affected the other match in today's final round of T20 interprovincials because North West Warriors all-rounder Stuart Thompson shares a house with Stirling, which would have put the game against Leinster Lightning in doubt.

However, that decision was taken out of Cricket Ireland's hands by a wet outfield at Bready and, indeed, the game was called off even before the Knights' coach trip was cancelled.

Neither of today's games had any bearing on the competition as Lightning already had an unassailable lead after beating the Knights in Pembroke last Thursday. Captain George Dockrell was due to receive the trophy before today's game.

Belfast Telegraph