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Corona League pair await news on FA Cup first round

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Jonathan Ball, a former PHC defender, heads the ball away from Shia Smith, of St David's, during Footy Kings' 5-2 win over the First Division side in the FA Cup preliminary round in October (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)
Marcus Johnson, of Footy Kings, celebrates his second goal against St David's in the FA Cup preliminary round in October. The Corona League side won the tie 5-2 to advance to the first round of the FA Cup for the first time (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)

January 1 should have been an eagerly anticipated day on the football calendar for two Corona League teams, the day when they would have found out their opponents for the FA Cup first round in two weeks’ time.

Instead, football, like other sport, has been halted after a recent spike in Covid-19 cases on the island which has left uncertainty hanging over another cup competition.

The Friendship Trophy and Shield finals were set for New Year’s Day, with the first-round draw for the FA Cup taking place during half-time of the Friendship Trophy final. However, those competitions never got to the quarter-final stage and now the FA Cup could be disrupted again.

First-round matches were scheduled for January 16 and 17 when the 11 Premier Division teams would have gone into the draw with the three First Division teams, Vasco, Young Men’s Social Club and Hamilton Parish — and two Corona League sides, Tuff Dogs and Footy Kings.

It is unlikely those games will take place as scheduled, as there is no indication when restrictions will be lifted. Teams are also not training because of new restrictions imposed on size of gatherings.

Tuff Dogs and Footy Kings have the added disadvantage of not having played a league game because the Corona League never started its 2020-21 season because of the pandemic which also cut short their previous campaign in March.

“We haven’t heard anything in regards to the Corona League, I do know that we have an application out to continue,” said Vinzie Zuill, coach of Footy Kings, who beat First Division side St David’s 5-2 in their preliminary-round match in October. This will be their first time in the first-round draw, facing the exciting prospect of meeting one of the Premier Division teams.

“Obviously with the spike in Covid cases and the restrictions, sporting events have been brought to a halt, but in December it did look good to start [the league]. At this time, we don’t know.

“Our players are trying to keep sharp individually and when the opportunity comes, we’ll try our best to be ready. It would be great if the Corona League is up and running and we can have one or two games before the FA Cup, but health is the priority and we have to wait on all the approvals.

“We definitely understand and we have to take matters in our own hands if we do have to play those games. If our season does start before those cup games, then we’ll use those games to prepare.

“If the draw does go ahead, it would be good to know who we play so that we can prepare. We have played some teams who have had byes in the BFA league, using those games to keep match-fit, but with sports being halted, none of us can do anything.”

Ralph Bean Jr, who won the FA Cup with North Village, and Marcus Johnson scored two goals each in the Footy Kings win, which was sealed by three goals in the last 16 minutes.

It was their first win in the cup after three previous losses in the preliminary round.

Tuff Dogs also advanced to the last 16 of the cup when they edged Flanagan’s Onions 2-1, with Shaun Brown scoring twice. He opened the scoring late in the first half and added a second in the opening minutes of the second half before Akim Johnston replied for Onions in the 74th minute.

Jermaine Gibbons, the Tuff Dogs coach, admits it has been a wait-and-see situation for all the clubs in the Corona League in regards to a starting date for the Corona League.

“We haven’t been given a clear indication when the Corona League would start,” Gibbons said. “We’ve been given projected dates but nothing has been formalised.

“We’re still preparing and still have our sights on the [cup] match and being optimistic on who we will be drawn up against.

“It’s unfortunate the Corona League hasn’t started, and to be quite honest I don’t see us starting now. But that still doesn’t prevent us from getting prepared for the upcoming match and whoever we may be going up against.

“We had played against a Corona team and a First Division team just to keep our fitness up.”

The FA Cup was also affected by the pandemic late last season when the scheduled 65th final — between North Village and Robin Hood — was cancelled.

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Published January 02, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 01, 2021 at 3:40 pm)

Corona League pair await news on FA Cup first round

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