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Tough decisions for GAA chiefs but the spectator ban cannot last forever


Down manager Paddy Tally

Down manager Paddy Tally

�INPHO/John McVitty

Down manager Paddy Tally

Tomorrow evening, 1,060 individuals will make their way to Windsor Park to watch Northern Ireland take on Slovakia in the Euro 2020 Play-Off final.

For those lucky enough to have a ticket, it might just feel like the greatest day out they've ever had following their team. It's not France in the summer of 2016 but, in light of the conditions we are all living under, no-one will take watching a game in person for granted again.

It's something Down manager Paddy Tally touched on last Sunday, long after his team had beaten Fermanagh in front of no-one but a few dozen media personnel and some stewards.

"I think it's a really strange atmosphere here today," said Tally.

"This is Championship football but it felt more like a McKenna Cup match.

"Not even a McKenna Cup match, because you would have a crowd around you. It was very flat.

"I don't know. When you look around at this space, you think, 'Could you not facilitate a few thousand people socially distanced from each other?' The Northern Ireland soccer team are playing on Thursday night and 1,060 are being allowed into Windsor Park. This is a bigger place here and nobody is allowed into it.

"You wonder sometimes if there is a way that you can facilitate the crowd. I think it makes an awful difference to the players, even to hear the odd shout and roar from the crowd to support them.

"But it's where we are at the moment and it is the decision that the GAA have made, and the IRFU are the same. We are going down the road of no crowds, so it is just something we have to get on with."

On one hand he has a point, but then the GAA could not take the bad look off having over 1,000 spectators at a game in Enniskillen on a Sunday and no-one at a game in Cavan town the day before.

We do not know how fast a vaccine can be circulated but, either way, this blanket ban on spectators cannot continue forever.

Belfast Telegraph