CORK footballer Mark Collins has given the thumbs-up to the county’s behind-the-scenes handling of the Covid pandemic ahead of the Munster semi-final against Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday week.
Having helped his club Castlehaven qualify for the county premier senior final against holders Nemo Rangers, Collins and the rest of the squad returned to Cork for the remaining league games against Louth and Longford as well as the big one against the neighbours.
“I’ve been very impressed with how everything has been run since we’ve been back with Cork,” he said during the week on a group chat.
“Our doctors, Aidan Kelleher and Con Murphy, who are involved with us, have prepared brilliantly to make us feel safe and ensuring everything is run smoothly.
“There was a Covid test done with us and that was excellent because it was very reassuring to know that the lads around were safe. It was a big bonus.
“To get the opportunity to play is absolutely brilliant and it really is a privilege, knowing that we’re working in a safe environment makes all the more pleasing.
“We had it before the Louth league game and it was very well done. Everyone was thrilled to get it.
“We got it on the Thursday evening and had the results back by lunch-time Friday. We were delighted and very impressed by it all,” Collins added.
While Cork will be cranking up their preparations for the visit of the Division 1 league champions over the weekend, a hectic national programme will have supporters glued to their TV screens.
There are hurling semi-finals in Munster and Leinster. Cork play Waterford in Thurles on Saturday and Tipperary meet Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh the following day.
Croke Park houses a double-header on Sunday between Kilkenny and Dublin and Galway and Wexford.
And there’s a mouth-watering Ulster football encounter between Donegal and Tyrone in Ballybofey on Sunday, too.
In all, there are games in the four provinces, hurling and football in Munster and Leinster along with football in Ulster and Leinster, though All-Ireland champions Dublin won’t be seen until the following weekend.
Collins stressed the importance people have of being able to watch live games on tv in these difficult times.
And Cork people got a taste of what’s in store with the Irish Examiner’s live-streaming of club games during the summer.
“I saw that with the club scene at home, the enjoyment people got from being able to watch the games being streamed live, especially during a summer when there was nothing on.
“I’ve an uncle at home who is a farmer and I remember him saying to me that there was no difference between a Saturday, Sunday, or a Monday.
“Everyday felt the same, he said, and the enjoyment they got from the matches during the summer was massive.
“It gave them something to talk about and also something to look forward to. I think that’s a big bonus going into the winter months when the days are shorter and that’s massive for people,” Collins added.
It really is a strange year, when you think the Castlehaven star has yet to start a game with Cork and he’s played more games for the Haven.
Injury at the start of the year restricted his involvement to a substitute’s role against Louth when Collins came off the bench to be the leading scorer with 1-5.
“I didn’t play hurling with Douglas this year because my body wouldn’t have been able to take six games in six weeks and that decision has paid off now.
“I was wary of making things worse by playing so many games, so it’s all eyes on Kerry now, a game I’m really looking forward to,” Collins concluded.
"It’s been a mad year. Looking back on it during the summer I didn’t think we’d have any football.
"So, to be in the situation we’re in, playing Kerry in a knock-out match in November, we’d have cut the hand of someone to have it. We’re just delighted to be playing in a match and we’re all looking forward to it."