Home > Uncategorized > Watching LOI online and in the flesh

Watching LOI online and in the flesh

Published in the Finn Harps match day programme – Issue 9 2020 – Finn Harps v Shamrock Rovers (1 November)

It is a Finn Harps v Shamrock Rovers game with a difference. COVID-19 restrictions mean there will be no home fans in Finn Park singing “Finn Harps, Finn Harps we are really here to stay”.

There is usually a sizeable travelling support for this fixture, with Rovers fans always made feel very welcome in Ballybofey but you won’t be hearing Hoops supporters serenading the newly crowned champions with (for reasons that are beyond me!) David Essex’s ‘Hold me close’.

However there will be plenty of football fans across Donegal, Dublin and beyond tuning in online via WATCHLOI for today’s fixture. The streaming service has been so vital for supporters since the resumption of the League of Ireland behind closed doors.

I’ll be watching this game online tonight deciding not to make the trip to Donegal but as a reporter with extratime.com I’ve been one of the lucky people to be able to attend games – and have watched matches in each of the league grounds in Dublin since August.

The added benefit of having WATCHLOI is that it streams about 90 seconds behind the live action, it has been very handy to have the stream available for action replays to make sure your match report is accurate!

The setup and organisation in each stadium I’ve visited has been very professional ensuring the safety of those in attendance and the match officials, management and players. A COVID-19 form completed ahead of match day, a temperature check on arrival, hand sanitiser available and social distanced seating in the stadium – and of course masks being worn. 

Most grounds now have an overflow press area as the press box simply isn’t large enough to accommodate the reporters and the required social distancing. In Tallaght Stadium, a new press area opposite the main stand was put in for the AC Milan Europa League qualifier to facilitate the large press core for that game from Ireland and Italy. Stickers with the reporters names were marked out on the desks. The Hoops have kept the area for the rest of this season and I’ve taken to sitting at Giovanni D’Elia’s desk in Tallaght for the past few weeks!

When St. Patrick’s Athletic played Harps behind-closed-doors in the FAI Cup in August, a number of Saints supporters made the trip to Finn Park to watch the game through the stadium perimeter fence – maybe there will be a few Rovers fans who might do similar although with heightened COVID-19 travel restrictions it might not be for the best.

One of the most memorial moments of this season for me involved fans watching another behind-closed-doors game that month. It was on a damp night in Tallaght when Rovers played Finnish side Ilves Tampere in a Europa League qualifier. In extra-time, from the pressbox you could hear the odd shout from behind the goal at The Square end of the ground. Then some more and before long out of the darkness about a dozen or so fans could be seen standing on top of the stadium perimeter wall – at one stage a few flares were lit  with smoke and song drifting into the stadium.

Those fans got to see the most dramatic of penalty shootouts. Jack Byrne missed Rovers’ first spot kick but then the Hoops scored the next dozen with Alan Mannus blasting one home before saving the 25th peno of the night. It set Joey O’Brien up to score his second penalty in the shootout for the win before the players trotted down to celebrate with the Rovers supporters – the ‘Ilves dozen’ – peering in over the perimeter wall.   

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