Ballinamallard United manager Harry McConkey feels that health must come before football at this time.

McConkey’s charges are flying high in the NIFL Championship but the IFA took the decision last Friday afternoon to suspend all domestic football matches until at least April 4 due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“This is a time when the minutiae of football is of no significance,” said McConkey.

“We have a responsibility within our community to make sure that we do all we can to protect the vulnerable and in the light of this our governing body has ruled that we must not play.”

Indeed, the Mallards have taken further steps by cancelling collective training with their players having individual programmes which they will work on.

“We knew at one o’clock last Friday that there were no matches allowed but I had to check about any directive from NIFL re training and was told on Friday evening that it was entirely up to the club.

“I made calls to a lot of Irish League clubs and to fellow managers who I know very well and there was a great mixed response. You had some who were going to train that morning and then leave the players for seven days, there were some who were playing a reserve v first team match and there were some people who were giving players individual programmes and directing them to stay at home.

“After consulting my chairman my coaches and the players I was felt it was best to leave the players for the next seven days at home and let them work on their individual programmes. I encouraged them to exercise in fresh air as much as possible whether that is running, cycling or whatever while our Strength and Conditioning coach Brian McCleery also contacted the boys with useful information and support, “ explained the Mallards boss.

In an ever evolving situation, McConkey says that they will continue to monitor matters.

“I have been in touch with the squad via WhatsApp on a daily basis since Saturday.When the seven days is up we will take the valuable information available and update our players accordingly .

“We have tried to make it simple and clear for our players. If they are feeling 100 per cent and suffering none of the conditions that the Public Health Authority warned about, then they should go out and maintain their fitness in a safe environment .

“If they were suffering any of the symptoms then they were to self isolate. At this stage though no player or staff member has reported any illness or symptoms to myself or the club,” he added.

While April 4 is the suggested date for a return to action, at this point that looks highly unlikely, and McConkey believes there is little point in debating what happens next until they know when they will be cleared to return to playing games and training as normal.

“We have no crystal ball and we have no idea when we will be back training as a collective or playing matches. I would feel that it is very optimistic to think that you would be back playing on April 4.

“I do feel strongly though that now is not the time to debate what lies ahead in the football season. At this very moment it is about making sure everybody and their families are safe, a debate on football is for another day,” he concluded.