| 12.3°C Dublin

Rovers focused despite threat to their Euro tie

Bradley baffled by Government statement as clubs do right thing

Close

Stephen Bradley believes football in Ireland is being punished by the government’s new guidelines

Stephen Bradley believes football in Ireland is being punished by the government’s new guidelines

SPORTSFILE

Stephen Bradley believes football in Ireland is being punished by the government’s new guidelines

Shamrock Rovers may get a bye into the next round of the Europa League if their Finnish opponents are unable to travel to Dublin for next week's one-off game.

But while there is a cloud over first-round Europa League ties next week for the Hoops and Derry City due to Covid-related issues, manager Stephen Bradley is confident that the domestic season will be completed despite newly-introduced restrictions here.

Bradley's focus now is on tomorrow's league game at home to Shelbourne, a chance for the Hoops to go seven points clear of closest rivals Bohemians.

"If you were to bother with everything you read or hear, you'd forget about training and preparing a team for a game. If something is thrown at us we'll deal with it. We just deal in facts, the fact is we have Shelbourne on Friday," Bradley said of the Europa League issue.

The next scheduled fixture after that is a Europa League tie at home to Finnish side Ilves Tampere on Thursday.

But the Finns' ability to travel to Dublin is in doubt after Tuesday's decree by the Finland Government that, from next Monday, anyone returning after visiting Ireland has to quarantine for 14 days.

Unless the club get an exemption from their government (and to date authorities in Helsinki have been slow to grant exemptions to sports teams), their players and staff would have to isolate for a fortnight after the Rovers game, putting their domestic season on hold.

Similar

Derry have a similar issue for their trip to Lithuania for a game on Tuesday, with new regulations there demanding that any arrivals into Lithuania from Ireland or the UK quarantine for 14 days. However, the Lithuania Government is reportedly open to granting exemptions for clubs and Derry now expect to be able to travel.

As of last night, Rovers were awaiting an update from Ilves who are novices in UEFA competition as this is only their third European campaign in 29 years.

Ilves could appeal to UEFA, claiming their government rules prevent them from travelling and demand that Rovers move the game to a neutral country. But it's also very possible that Ilves opt not to travel, which would result in a forfeit of the game and a 3-0 win for Rovers.

UEFA's stance is unclear on the issue as new rules, drawn up to deal with the Covid crisis, state that last-minute rule changes by local governments will "in principle, not be taken into account".

It's an added complication for the Tallaght club, on top of confusion arising from new rules on Covid and how they impact sports here, particularly the limit of 15 people for training.

There are real fears in GAA circles that the latest moves by the Government here, which ban all spectators from matches and limit the numbers who can train in one group or "pod" to just 15, could put an end to hopes of playing an inter-county championship this year.

Bradley says he's confident that the 2020 season, which has 10 games remaining, can be seen to its conclusion, but he's angry at how football was being "punished" by the new restrictions.

"I hope not because I think all of the clubs have done their work," Bradley said when asked if the season was in danger of disruption. "I wouldn't [worry] because I believe clubs are doing everything right.

"If you thought that clubs were cutting corners at grounds or at training, and you would hear if that was happening, then you would have genuine concerns there. But I don't see that, I don't hear that.

"I think everybody is working really, really hard to do things right. We haven't had a positive test at any club.

"I think that shows that everyone is doing it right and the players are being responsible so I don't see why the league as a whole should be punished when everybody is trying to do things right.

"They have all done things correctly and I would like to understand how they [the Government] came to the decision that they have come to in terms of putting out a blanket statement for everybody.

"Clubs have worked too hard and are doing too much in terms of protocols at the games and in terms of training for the Government just to come out and make a blanket statement."

Bradley oversaw training at their Roadstone base yesterday with the normal setup. "You can't come out and tell us two days before a game to train in pods of 15 for no apparent reason," he said.