Lu Kellett, Advanced Medical Services, conducts a Covid-19 swab test on Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne at their training facility, Roadstone Group Sports Club, in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ireland and Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne has described the first tests of League of Ireland players for Covid-19 as “another step closer to training soon”.
Byrne was among the players and staff of the four clubs due to compete in Europe this year – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City, and Bohemians – who underwent their first tests for the virus this morning.
“The test was fine,” said Byrne. “We just got a little swab taken at the back of our throats and it was all done in less than 20 seconds. We’re happy to get it done as it’s another step closer to training soon.”
Speaking to FAI TV, he added: “I think it’s important for everyone in the country that football gets back when it’s safe to do so. I think we’re taking the right measures to come back to football in time and in a safe way. Football is such a huge part of this country and we need to take these steps for football to return, from the league to the grassroots. I can’t wait to return and get back to playing football.”
To help them prepare them for European competition – assuming their Champions League and Europa League qualifiers will be given the green light to go ahead – last season’s top four club are scheduled to take part in a mini-tournament at a neutral venue later this summer, which will also act as a pilot programme for a return to football for all.
Ahead of their planned return to training on June 8, players and staff from the four clubs underwent their first tests at club grounds and training grounds this morning. The results will be available later this week when they will be assessed by the FAI medical team who will link in with Government and HSE officials as they work together on a return for sport.
“Today is a significant day as we plot our return for all football in Ireland in a safe environment for players, staff, officials and volunteers,” said the FAI’s medical director Alan Byrne.
“We must take slow and deliberate steps in this Covid-19 pandemic and testing of these four squads is crucial as we look to deliver this pathway to a safer return to football for all elements of our game.
“We have begun the process for players at all levels, not just for those tested today under the pilot programme. Once we start to analyse the results of these tests, we can move forward. We will test the players from these four clubs again before they return to training on June 8th and then again regularly when they are back on the training field.
“Everything we do now is designed to ensure that football can return for everyone as soon as it is safe and responsible. We owe that to all our players, from the elite players in the League of Ireland to the schoolboys and schoolgirls who want to get back on the pitch with their clubs but their health and safety must come first. This is the first step and a significant step in that process.”