The chairman of the Donegal-Derry Vipers has welcomed a firm commitment from all sides that there will be no hard border in Ireland post-Brexit.
Derry man Shaun McGrory said the team would however continue to watch developments closely following a turbulent week in which the future relationship between Ireland north and south took centre stage in the Brexit negotiations.
The Vipers had previously expressed concerns that a hard border could have had a serious impact for its players and American Football in Ireland.
On Friday morning it was confirmed that an agreement had been reached over the Irish border, among other matters, between the UK, Ireland and the rest of the European Union countries. Commitments were given that regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations on trade deals and other issues, the Irish situation would be treated as a standalone issue. The finalised agreement states: “The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements.”
Mr McGrory said that while this was welcome, “there’s no detail as to what exactly it means”.
The Vipers were founded in October 2014 and played their first season the following March. Since then the team have travelled all over Ireland.
Mr. McGrory said that lack of clarity over the border issue up to this point had resulted in uncertainty over whether the local squad would be best off based in the north or the south in terms of finance and funding, and what potential customs checks would mean in terms of travelling times for training and to matches - with players from right across Derry, Donegal and Tyrone - and also what it would mean for players if they were split off by a hard border.
“In practice now we are still looking at it, but it seems that one of the main things is that travel time isn’t going to be an issue so we are happy enough with that,” Mr McGrory said.
“I have chatted to a few other guys from teams around the border and everybody is happy enough. This is a young sport, and a growing sport in Ireland, and we don’t need anything that would prove a hindrance to that. There’s a sigh of relief among all the teams.Game day travel was probably our main concern, and to have to negotiate any kind of customs issues, so it has taken a weight off that there is not going to be any great hold-ups.”
The Vipers currently have around 40 members, 60 per cent from the north and 40 per cent from the south.
The team currently train within the grounds of Lisneal College in Derry, and Mr McGrory said the school have been absolutely brilliant. The players come from different areas and differing backgrounds but have come together as a team and become friends, he said. “In terms of the social fabric, we look at ourselves as one team within one region,” he said.
The Donegal-Derry Vipers will be back in action in January and you can follow the team’s progress via their website www.ddvipers.com/ on Facebook at www.facebook.com/donegalderryvipers/ Twitter: @donegalderryvip or Instagram.