Irish League chairman views ‘proactive’ halt as positive for 38-game hopes

Dungannon Swifts chairman Keith Boyd views the “proactive” agreement to impose a three-game Danske Bank Premiership suspension as positive towards hopes of completing the full campaign.

Boyd’s Swifts are scheduled to face Warrenpoint Town this weekend in one of three planned Premiership games following another round of fixtures hit by coronavirus-related postponements.

Irish League officials from NIFL and the IFA have now confirmed a temporary halt to play from 6pm on January 9 to January 23. Training can resume on January 18.

That call, following consultation with all 12 Premiership clubs, has been celebrated by Boyd as a positive forward step.

Dungannon Swifts chairman Keith Boyd.

“Acting in response to discussions with clubs and making a decision should be seen as a sensible and proactive move by our Irish League officials,” said Boyd. “Something had to be done and this move to give the Premiership a ‘circuit breaker’ offers everything a chance at some welcome breathing space.

“I also view it as productive towards helping us strive at still completing a 38-game season, even if it is a short-term delay.

“The rise over this past week or so in fixtures affected by coronavirus must give cause for concern and now everyone can take a step back.

“We have until the end of June and even with this break I see it as a chance after to keep on pushing towards 38 games.

“If it doesn’t happen then we can roll it back but I certainly would be against declaring anything at present as a 22-game cut-off.

“Players want to play football and using the full extension also increases the chance for crowds to get back into games.

“This encouraging delay should not alter our ambition towards 38 games.”

Confirmation by officials of Covid-19 testing to be introduced “for players, coaches and officials” to ensure “a safe return to play” has also been praised by Boyd.

“The introduction of testing will act as an added deterrent as everyone works within restrictions,” said Boyd. “It will also offer others peace of mind that Irish League football is continuing to do everything possible.”

The Swifts’ matchday squad against Warrenpoint Town will include recent signings Matty Smyth and Ryan Mayse.

Portadown have confirmed a deal for goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan.

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