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The Irish League's Covid testing regime must be regular, agree rival managers

But Swifts chief Lindsay fears regime won't be fully effective in Irish League


Frozen out: Dungannon Swifts manager Kris Lindsay (left) and Barry Gray of Warrenpoint Town survey the icy Milltown surface on Saturday

Frozen out: Dungannon Swifts manager Kris Lindsay (left) and Barry Gray of Warrenpoint Town survey the icy Milltown surface on Saturday

Gerard Lawlor

Gerard Lawlor

Stephen Hamilton/Inpho


Frozen out: Dungannon Swifts manager Kris Lindsay (left) and Barry Gray of Warrenpoint Town survey the icy Milltown surface on Saturday

Dungannon Swifts boss Kris Lindsay and Warrenpoint Town counterpart Barry Gray believe Covid-19 testing needs to take place on a regular basis when it comes into the Irish League.

With a rise in the coronavirus cases across the country and growing concerns about the situation within football, on Friday the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) Board, supported by the Irish FA, made the decision to suspend playing Danske Bank Premiership games until January 23 following Saturday's game between Cliftonville and Crusaders.

Players aren't allowed to train again until next Monday while NIFL have declared that when clubs return there will be a Covid testing structure in place.

The IFA and NIFL are scheduled to hold discussions today about the processes to be used in relation to the testing and who will pay for it.

On testing coming in, Lindsay said: "It gives slight peace of mind, but it is important that if it does come in it is a regular occurrence.

"We aren't a full-time set-up like in England where people get tested and stay in their bubble.

"We have players who potentially could get tested on a Wednesday and then go to their work on a Thursday and a Friday so there is a difference.

"Yes, it gives you some peace of mind, but it isn't going to be 100 per cent effective because of the way our league is. It is an added step, though, which will add to the safety for games."

Gray stated: "It has to be regular testing or none.

"Doing a test is great because it will give us an indication of whether someone is positive with no symptoms, but tests need to be regular."

Asked about who should pay for the testing in football, Gray added: "It's not so much a case of who should be paying for it, it's more who could and who has the resource to?

"It's quite clear that clubs don't have that resource, otherwise we would be doing it already. I don't see the IFA books so I don't know if they have the resources to do it, but I do know when it comes in it needs to be regular."

With this latest break, combined with one at Christmas and the late start to the season, does Gray feel the 38 league programme will be completed?

"It's a huge, huge ask to get to 38 games. I'm willing to give it a go, but I thought it was a huge ask at the start of the season. You can understand we had to try and set out the timetable to be positive about it," said the Town manager.

"Things have changed rapidly in the last few months and maybe things can change positively over the next few months. Should we be having a discussion about tail-ending the season? It's premature. We still have loads of months left."

NIFL chairman Gerard Lawlor argued that Covid-19 testing would allay some of the players' fears.

"The message we've heard from players is that they would like some form of testing," said the Cliftonville chairman.

"For a minimum of six weeks, I would like to think, we would look at some sort of testing regime."

Reflecting on the decision to suspend the season, he added: "A small minority of clubs wanted a longer period (of no games) while some clubs said we shouldn't have gone any period.

"Public health are not telling us to close - the decision we made is the correct decision, there is something in it for everyone. There will be no repeat of last season, we have learnt from the mistakes."

On Saturday morning, Milltown passed a pitch inspection for Warrenpoint's league game versus Dungannon before match referee Shane Andrews called the game off just over an hour before kick-off.

Lindsay said: "It was the right decision. We have to look at player welfare and player safety and if a player was to make a sliding tackle or fall on that pitch it could have been dangerous. Especially at this time when the NHS is already under massive pressure we don't want to be adding to that."

Gray said: "The pitch has been frozen solid for three or four days now. I think there was frustration with the late call, but you could flip that and say it was given every chance. We want to play games, but we want to play them safely and I feel the decision was correct."

The Swifts have also announced that teenage left back Adam Glenny has put pen to paper on a three-year deal. The 18-year-old arrived at Dungannon aged 14 and has worked his way up through the Youth Academy at Dungannon United Youth.

"We are thrilled to get Adam signed up with his first professional contract which is full credit to him after all the hard work he has put in," said Lindsay.

Belfast Telegraph