Skipper: ‘We must follow the rules’

COLERAINE captain Stephen O’Donnell shared his views on the current coronavirus pandemic and hopes that the 2019-20 campaign can be played to a finish when safe to do so…

Speaking to , O’Donnell stressed that the whole situation is a ‘worrying time’ for everyone connected to football clubs.

“It is a worrying time for players, coaches, personnel and clubs in general,” he said.

“There is no doubting that clubs will struggle as gate receipts are a massive part of business plans and how clubs survive, but this has now been thrown into the air.

“There have been conversations about a government relief fund and it would be great if the Association could secure this, but I don’t know the ins and outs of that.

“I think the most important thing is that everyone comes together and devises a plan so that people and clubs can be put at ease,” he added.

There have been suggestions that the league could be ‘null and void’ or current standings be used to determine final league positions.

However, with Coleraine just four points behind Linfield, there is little surprise to read that O’Donnell is hoping that the league is played to a conclusion.

“I don’t think you can null and void the season as there is too much to work out and there are no happy outcomes,” he continued.

“For example, how can you relegate a team on goal difference, or allocate European spots and league champions with matches still to play?

“I think the league and Irish Cup has to be played out to a finish and, to be honest, I’m sure the majority of players at other clubs would agree with me.

“Yes, if current standings are used then we would finish in the Europa League and, whilst that would be a great achievement for the club, I don’t think we would be overly happy as the league is that tight and we have a good chance in the Irish Cup.

“I don’t have the answers to solve the problem but I do think the league has to be played to a conclusion, although we will take it as it is.”

O’Donnell, who arrived at The Showgrounds in 2017 from Institute, admits it has been a ‘frustrating time’ on the sidelines but that health always comes first.

“For us as a group it has definitely been frustrating not continuing where we left off,” he added.

“However, you have to follow the expert advice given from health professionals and governing bodies, so the break is the right thing to do.

“All we can do at the minute is follow the rules and keep our families safe.

“We are on a good run and that probably adds to the frustration. We were working hard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and moving forward as a club.

“However, we must remain positive as this is nothing we have any control over.”

The skipper concluded by issuing a rallying call for everyone to remain home and stay safe.

“I would like to ask everyone to stay at home and stay safe,” he concluded.

“Keep your family and loved ones safe. Let’s look after the most vulnerable in our club and our communities by checking in regularly and providing essentials for them where it is safe to do so.

“Let’s try and make sure that everyone is being looked after and staying as safe as possible and hopefully we will all be back at football soon enough.”