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Handshakes banned by Ulster Hockey over coronavirus fears



No go: brothers Mark Gleghorne and Paul Gleghorne shake hands

No go: brothers Mark Gleghorne and Paul Gleghorne shake hands

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

No go: brothers Mark Gleghorne and Paul Gleghorne shake hands

Ulster hockey's governing body has ordered players not to shake hands after matches in the province due to ongoing concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

The ban also applies to pre-match handshakes which traditionally take place between members of competing teams ahead of knockout finals when players are often introduced to dignitaries after forming a football-style line on the pitch.

The directive comes into place with immediate effect and was evident at the Belfast Telegraph Ulster Senior Cup final between the girls of Belfast Royal Academy and Friends' School Lisburn at Lisnagarvey on Wednesday afternoon.

Ulster Hockey executive manager Mark Scott explained: "I can confirm that we have issued guidelines that handshakes should be avoided and this is following the example of several high-profile sports organisations across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

"At present, there has been no effect on the fixtures taking place but we are continuing to monitor the situation and will follow guidance provided by the Department of Health."

In Wednesday's game in Hillsborough, the Friends' and BRA squads were introduced to Ulster Hockey president Terry Templeton by the respective captains, as is the norm before schools' and other finals.

However, the traditional handshakes didn't take place and, instead, the players merely exchanged pleasantries with each other as they went down the line, before breaking away.

During the game, though, players celebrated the six goals in a tactile manner as normal and formed the usual huddles before the match and at half-time before the whistle went.

After the game, both squads lined up linking arms with each other before and during the presentation ceremony so, apart from the ban on post-match handshakes, little else, it seems, has changed.

Meanwhile, Lisnagarvey face an anxious wait ahead of hosting the European Trophy tournament at Comber Road at the end of May.

Italy are due to send two teams to the event, one of which hails from the north of the country which is the worst affected area by the virus in Europe.

Club officials have been in contact with the sport's European governing body, EHF, and, with a constantly evolving situation, are awaiting developments.

"As you would expect, in such a rapidly changing situation, we contacted EHF a week ago, and are in regular contact with all competing teams," explained Lisnagarvey chairman Roger Kennedy.

"EHF are obviously well aware of the position, currently do not plan to make any changes to their tournament schedules, and will provide further guidance as and when appropriate.

"We will of course continue to monitor the position, as well as (take) advice from EHF and Public Health Authorities."

A total of eight teams are scheduled to take part in the second-tier European Championship from countries across the continent, including the Czech Republic, Wales, Croatia, Portugal and Denmark as well as Italy.

In the worst-case scenario, if the Italian sides chose to withdraw, or were forced to do so, there is a chance the tournament could still proceed.

This would either be with a smaller number of teams on a round-robin format or others could be asked to replace them as has happened in different circumstances in the past.

Belfast Telegraph