Home Sport GAA Croke Park to be used as ‘drive-thru’ coronavirus testing centre

Croke Park to be used as ‘drive-thru’ coronavirus testing centre

15 March 2020; A general view of Croke Park Stadium. Following directives from the Irish Government and the Department of Health the majority of the country’s sporting associations have suspended all activity until March 29, in an effort to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

By Damian Dolan

Croke Park is to become a ‘drive-thru’ Covid-19 testing centre for people suspected of having the virus.

The precise details of how it will work have yet to be confirmed by the government or the GAA, but it’s been reported that stadium tunnel, which runs from the Hill 16 end of the Hogan Stand and around to the Cusack Stand on the opposite side, could provide a suitable venue for testing.

Such a set-up would allow individuals to be tested, by appointment only, without even leaving their vehicle.

“This will not be a walk-up service,” local residents were informed via a message.

“The stadium lay-out has been identified as being suitable for facilitating this important service at this time. As soon as we have further information, we will share it with you.”

The move would be another attempt by authorities to keep pace with the scale of the rapidly escalating situation.

It comes after the GAA suspended all games and collective training until 29 March.

Major sporting events continue to be disrupted with this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-finals the latest matches to be postponed.

The eight games were due to take place on 3/4/5 April. That includes Leinster’s home Champions Cup clash with Saracens, and Ulster’s tie with Toulouse.

Leinster and Ulster carry Irish Euro hopes
12 January 2020; Dave Kearney, right, and Rob Kearney of Leinster following the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 5 match between Leinster and Lyon at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

In a statement issued on Monday (16 March), European Professional Club Rugby said they remain “committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport’s governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe”.

The English Gallagher Premiership also announced on Monday (16 March) that it was to suspend all matches for five weeks.
Games could commence again from the weekend of 24-26 April.

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The move means London Irish’s final St Patrick’s Party at Reading’s Madejski Stadium on 28 March – before the club moves into the Brentford Community Stadium for next season – will now not take place.

Croke Park to be used as drive thru coronavirus testing centre
London Irish’s St Patrick’s Party on 28 March has been called off. Photo: Damian Dolan

In soccer, Mick McCarthy could be denied the chance to take the Republic of Ireland to the Euro finals, with this summer’s tournament in doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UEFA organised an emergency video-conference call between European football’s 55 member associations and national federations on Tuesday (17 March) to discuss

Those talks were expected to include Euro 2020, which is due to get underway on 12 June in Rome.

There is support for postponing the finals for 12 months, with member associations keen to prioritise completing their own domestic leagues.

Italy’s football federation president Gabriele Gravina confirmed they have proposed UEFA “delay” the finals, to allow them to complete the Serie A season.

“We will try to get to the end of this championship because it is fairer and more correct after the many investments and sacrifices of our clubs,” he said on Sunday.

Croke Park to be used as drive thru coronavirus testing centre
14 November 2019; Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy after the 3 International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Postponement would, however, leave the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) with a dilemma.

McCarthy’s appointment as Ireland senior manager for a second spell in November 2018 was accompanied by the caveat that Under 21 boss Stephen Kenny would take over the role upon the competition of the team’s Euro 2020 campaign.

Ireland are scheduled to play Slovakia on 26 March in the sides’ Euro semi-final play-off in Bratislava. A game already confirmed to take place behind closed doors.

The winners of that game would face either Northern Ireland or Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-off final five days later.

Both the Slovakian and Bosnian football associations have formally requested that the games be postponement.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) were also due to hold talks with international sports federations on Tuesday (17 March) via teleconference to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Organisers had previously been steadfast that the Games would go ahead as scheduled.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday that the Olympics will go ahead – the Games are due to get underway on 24 July.

The Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia was held without spectators, but the Greece segment of the torch relay was suspended. The Japan section is due to start on 26 March.

The Olympic qualifying boxing events in London are going as scheduled, albeit behind closed doors.

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