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Coronavirus: Windsor Park set to be Covid-19 testing centre

IFA chiefs give Stormont green light to use national stadium as part of plans for major sports to play role


A packed Windsor Park

A packed Windsor Park

A packed Windsor Park

Windsor Park, spruced up by the events team at UEFA, should have been preparing to play host to a Euro play-off final on Tuesday night.

With Northern Ireland scheduled to face Bosnia and Herzegovina last Thursday night in Zenica, Michael O'Neill's men, considering their form in last year's qualifiers, had an excellent chance of making it through to the decider in Belfast against either neighbours the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia for the right to reach the finals.

Alas, the coronavirus pandemic intervened and as with all sport across the globe, apart from in Belarus, postponements were rife and the play-off semi-final has been pushed back by UEFA until June 4.

Windsor Park, since government officials decreed last week that non-essential workers should perform their tasks at home, has lay dormant, but now football's national stadium is set to play a vital role in the battle against COVID-19 in Northern Ireland.

For Irish FA chiefs have agreed to let the Northern Ireland Executive have the keys to the national stadium, to use as a coronavirus testing centre.

The top brass from all the major sports in Northern Ireland - football, rugby and GAA - met nine days ago to form a three-pronged alliance in the hope sport can be a key player as the country attempts to combat this deadly virus.

The Kingspan Stadium has already been made available to government and while the GAA aren't in position to put forward Casement Park, they have agreed use their resources and, of course, Croke Park in Dublin is major testing centre in the Republic of Ireland.

Over in Wales, Cardiff's Principality Stadium is set to become a field hospital for 2,000 patients and major venues in Northern Ireland, the SSE Arena, Titanic Belfast and the Antrim Forum could be used in a similar fashion.

The Irish FA, through their internal Coronavirus Response Group, which has been set up, insist they are keen to play as big a role in the communities as possible throughout this crisis, have been in touch with government offering their assistance, and many of the staff have volunteered for community endeavours.

Belfast Telegraph