Derry City boss Declan Devine believes the FAI now has time on its side

Declan Devine believes the FAI has time on its side when it comes to rescheduling the season.Declan Devine believes the FAI has time on its side when it comes to rescheduling the season.
Declan Devine believes the FAI has time on its side when it comes to rescheduling the season. | other
DECLAN DEVINE believes the FAI has time on its side after asking the association to ‘respect the players’ and ensure postponed matches aren’t crammed into the fixture calendar should the League of Ireland get the green light to resume play next month.

League of Ireland clubs are continuing to assess the potentially crippling impact of the suspension of domestic competitions until at least March 29th - an initial measure to tackle the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

UEFA today made the decision to postpone Euro 2020 which was to take place this summer and a working group has been set up with the participation of leagues and club representatives to examine calendar solutions that would allow for the completion of the current season.

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And with the 2021 SSE Airtricity League campaign scheduled to kick-off in February next year, Devine reckons there’s plenty of scope to complete the current domestic campaign should the FAI scrap the mid-season break and extend the league beyond October.

That’s 11 months to fit in Derry’s remaining 32 league fixtures and potentially eight additional matches should the EA Sports Cup and FAI Cup competitions also go ahead as planned.

UEFA will join representatives of European clubs and leagues today (Tuesday) in an emergency video-conference to discuss the ramifications of the suspension of games across the continent and to find solutions to the financial consequences faced by clubs.

As it stands, the Candy Stripes are set to miss out on FOUR scheduled SSE Airtricity Premier Division matches - against Sligo, St Pat’s, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne - which includes three home gates.

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And while clubs face an uncertain and deeply worrying period over the coming months, should the FAI decide to resume domestic competitions in April, Devine hopes teams are given ample time to prepare for games when the current restrictions are eventually lifted.

“Hopefully we can get it back up and running as quickly as possible but everything has been taken out of our hands,” he explained. “We have to make sure when we do get the clarification to go ahead that we’re ready to go.

“As far as I know I have to take guidance from everyone. We also have to have it in the back of our minds that these matches can come up very quickly and we’ve got to prepare accordingly.

“If the ban is for a couple of weeks we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go when it comes to an end. It’s unfortunate but we are where we are.

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“We’ve got to make sure we stay healthy and keep all our players healthy and carry through whatever protocols are required but at the same time you are still on a bit of a wing and prayer in terms of making sure we lock ourselves down.

“Understanding the health aspect is key to give ourselves the best chance so that when we do come back in a week or two or three weeks, or whatever it may be, that we’re all in a good place.

“An interesting factor from the league’s point of view is in terms of what date we start back and how can we prepare properly to start back. Can the players be shown a bit of respect? They can’t just tell us one week we’re playing next week and expect the levels of competition to be just jumped upon again.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council has taken the decision to close down all Council owned facilities for the foreseeable future, including Brandywell Stadium. That leaves Derry City without a pitch to train and Devine is concerned about how his club will prepare for the resumption of the league.

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“Every club in the country needs somewhere to train. Every club in the country needs to be safe in the places they train but they also need to have time to get ready to get back into professional football competition and that’s going to be something that I’ll be looking at down the line and wondering how this is going to work.”

In terms of how the league decides to reschedule fixtures this season, Devine just hopes common sense prevails despite this unprecedented situation.

“Anything is possible. Next season doesn’t start until February 2021 which is 11 months away so time is on our side. But there has to be this aspect of looking at the fixtures.

“The fixtures are light towards the end of the season. Hopefully when we come back again they’re not cramming everything into a four or five week period.

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“Hopefully they respect the players and respect that supporters can’t be forking out on a short term fix.

“We’ve got to have a proper plan put into place so that the football season is spread equally over whatever number of months we’ve got left to play this season.

“We can’t just cram in the games we’ve missed because you’re taking away the spectacle and people are going to get it extremely tough financially over the coming weeks and months.

Let’s get a proper plan in place and not try to fix this by squeezing in two and three games a week for three or four weeks when football does resume.”

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