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Business as usual for the Irish duo who've played three games in the last nine days

Roy O’Donovan and Wes Hoolahan were in A-League action again today for Newcastle Jets.

Updated Mar 23rd 2020, 8:26 PM

“THE STREETS WERE absolutely deserted on the drive home,” Roy O’Donovan tells The42 over the phone after helping Newcastle Jets to beat Melbourne City.

Today’s 2-1 home win for the Jets – played behind closed doors at the McDonald Jones Stadium – looks likely to go down as the last game to take place in the A-League before a suspension of play, which many understandably feel should have been called sooner.

aleague-jets-city Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City played behind closed doors today at McDonald Jones Stadium. Source: AAP/PA Images

While the spread of Covid-19 has left the football world largely dormant over the past week or so, it’s been business as usual in the Australian top flight.

O’Donovan and compatriot Wes Hoolahan have both played three games in the last nine days for Newcastle Jets. Their previous two fixtures – away to Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar – saw them clock up over 4,500 kilometres.

However, Football Federation Australia have called a press conference for later this evening, at which they’re finally expected to bring a temporary halt to a season that had been due to conclude on the weekend of 16/17 May.

At the time of writing, Australia – a country with a population of approximately 25 million – has 1,717 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with seven reported deaths.

“The virus hasn’t touched Australia yet in the same way that it has ravaged places like Italy and Spain, but obviously the whole thing has still been very scary,” says O’Donovan.

“I suppose playing games has kind of kept life normal for us at a time when the world has been turned on its head. We’ve been travelling but we’ve been in separate rooms and we were kept apart on the plane and all that kind of stuff.

“From the football side of things, the game is all about the fans and the passion. Playing in an empty stadium with no people there, even though they’re competitive fixtures and you’re playing for points, they’ve had the feel of pre-season games in that sense.

“It’s a very strange experience. Your senior players and your leaders are driving things on, but I don’t think anyone wants things to stay this way in the long-term. The fans want to be in the grounds watching their favourite players and teams, and we want them there too.

“But as a human race now we’ve got a responsibility to make sure that we stop this thing, flatten the curve, and to do that I think everybody is going to have to go into lockdown for a little bit.”

aleague-jets-mariners Newcastle Jets striker Roy O'Donovan. Source: AAP/PA Images

O’Donovan says that although the Newcastle Jets players have not been tested for the virus, their temperatures are being monitored daily by the club’s medical staff. They have also been urged to report any symptoms, but no one has had to do so yet.

“We’ve just had to get on with it,” the 34-year-old striker from Cork says of playing games amid the pandemic. “We’re contracted to do a job so we have to do that until the situation changes. Everyone is healthy and we’re being checked every day so there’s been no real problems.

“As an organisation and a league, we’re obviously getting a little bit of abuse because we’ve played on when the whole world is shutting down around us.

“But as players I think we had a responsibility in that regard to play on for as long as we could in a safe environment, and it has been that. The second that it’s not, that’s when the league should be stopped. None of the lads here have shown any symptoms whatsoever and it seems to have been managed well.

“Everything seems normal at the moment because we’re still playing games, but I’ll probably realise in a couple of years when I look back what a strange experience it has all been.” 

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Paul Dollery

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