Everyone wants to get back playing as long as it is safe - Stephen Bradley

Sun, May 24 2020

Stephen Bradley Credit: Brian F Smyth (ETPhotos)

COVID-19 testing for the ‘top four’ clubs will begin on Monday as part of the first tentative steps towards the return of the League of Ireland.

The clubs - Dundalk, Bohemians, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers – are due to play in European competitions later in the year and the plan is that the season will return first for those clubs who will play a mini-tournament aimed to help them ahead of those UEFA European qualifiers.

Speaking to Shamrock Rovers TV on Friday night (see here), Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley talked about how his squad is keen to return to action – initially with collective training from 8 June – once it is deemed safe to do so.

“Every one of the players wants to go back training and wants to get back playing as long as it is safe,” said Bradley. “We are starting testing next week which is real step forward.”

When the Hoops do get back on the pitch, it will almost certainly be behind closed doors but Bradley believes it is best to continue rather than scrap the season – Rovers won all five of their matches in the Premier Division so far this year.

“My personal opinion is we need to play the games,” said Bradley. “I don’t think scrapping the season does anyone any favours now or in the future. I understand the financial implications at every club and I know it is difficult  but everyone is going to have to take a real hit this year. 

“Every other profession and every other business has to adapt and we shouldn’t be any different. It is an industry, jobs are on the line. I think the league employs over 600 people – we can’t just make 600 people unemployed just because it is football.”

The Hoops squad have been doing extensive fitness work from home. “They are doing double sessions every day. We have the GPS so we can monitor what is being done, manage their workload and how hard they work. They are at a pretty good fitness level for when they get back on the pitch.”

The Rovers players took a voluntary 25% pay cut in mid-April and their Head Coach says the club and fanbase “should be really proud of this group of players. They have shown what they are about when times are tough, understanding that the club has taken a massive financial hit.

"The players recognised that very early. They wanted to offer up the paycut to the club. It shows what they think about the club. They aren’t thinking about themselves but about the club for next year and the year after and into the future.”

Bradley was speaking ahead of last Friday’s Shamrock Rovers online quiz night that was part of a fan organised funding initiative that has raised over €20,000 for the club to date. “To see what the fans have set up, I think it is a brilliant gesture from the fans. It shows what the club means to so many people.”