Sporting events grind to halt amid crisis

Sporting events grind to halt amid crisis

18 March 2020

LOCAL sport is in complete lockdown due to the deepening coronavirus crisis.

All soccer, GAA, rugby and hockey fixtures have been cancelled until further notice.

Local athletics clubs have ceased activities and the Easter motorcycling meeting at Bishopscourt has been called off.

One survivor is horse racing and this Sunday’s Ulster National meeting at Downpatrick will take place — but behind closed doors.

“The health and safety of our racegoers and the need to ensure public health is paramount to us,” a spokesman for the racecourse said.

“Regrettably, access by the public at our turnstiles on race day will not be possible.”

He added: “This is our first meeting of the year and one of the biggest. It is a big disappointment.”

On the athletics front, Sunday’s Jimmy’s Ten race in Downpatrick was cancelled.

Indoor sports have also been hit with boxing, table tennis, martial arts, darts and bowls calling a halt to their programmes and the Down Skittles League postponing the start of their new season.

The pro-active Newcastle League were first to act last Wednesday when they called off yesterday’s planned NFU Mutual Bobby Dalzell Cup final between Ballynahinch Olympic Town and Killough.

Following further consultations 24 hours later, it was decided to postpone all league fixtures for two weeks. 

The Amateur League quickly followed suit when they too called a halt to their fixtures list before the IFA told all affiliated members on Friday afternoon that no football was to be played until Saturday, April 4, at the earliest.

A Newcastle League spokesman told the Recorder last night that they “reluctantly had to take the necessary action”.

He said: ”After very careful consideration, the committee agreed to postpone the NFU Mutual Bobby Dalzell Cup final on St Patrick’s Day and the entire league programme. We believe that this is a reasonable and responsible decision given the circumstances,” he said.

The Amateur League stated that games would initially be cancelled until this Saturday, subject to review. However, the IFA then stepped in and announced that all football will cease until April 4 at the earliest.

“In response to the evolving situation around coronavirus (Covid-19) and having listened to partners throughout the football family, the Board has suspended the current football season, at both domestic and grassroots level,” a spokesman said. 

“The decision has been made with public health, but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, staff and volunteers front of mind. We expect games to restart on Saturday, April 4. The matter will be kept under constant review,” he added. 

“This means no affiliated football will be played in Northern Ireland until that time.”

The GAA has suspended all activity at club, county, schools and colleges levels until March 29.

Down GAA secretary Sean Og McAteer explained what this will entail. “This is to include all games, training and team gatherings at all ages and all grades. We will continue to liaise with Government officials and review the situation between now and the end of the month, assessing the impact of these measures on our competitions.”