WE often forget about the hard work done behind the scenes by so many people to keep sport.
Recently I caught up with Erika Ní Thuama, and having spoken to her and gone through in detail her role with Cork City FC it was evident how busy her schedule is and the Trojan work she does, and this should not go unrecognised.
Ní Thuama currently serves as Community and Academy Coordinator as well as being the Covid-19 compliance officer for the club and here she tells us about love for the club and her passion to progress in her role.
“I first started attending games back in 1998 with some people from school and the following season I started volunteering by selling programmes on match night, and my love for the club grew from there really.”
The 37-year-old from Mahon's contribution grew from there.
“Over the years I've held numerous different volunteer roles at the club. I began writing match reports on academy games, programme seller, ticket seller and I was a member of the Board of Management of Foras for three years from 2012 to 2015."
She also worked for the FAI on the More Than A Club project from late 2017 to mid-2019. based full-time with Cork City FC.
"Over the last five or six years, I've been volunteering at academy matches where a few of us run a shop selling chocolate, tea, coffee, and so on with all proceeds going back into the academy."
She's currently working as Community and Academy Coordinator with the club as well being the Covid Compliance Officer.
"As Community and Academy Coordinator, I look after the logistical and administration tasks for the five Academy boys and girls' teams as well as the assisting with the senior women's team. During the season I start the week by collating all the fixtures across the club for the week ahead and organise the logistical side of things, book buses and pre-match food for away matches, alternative match venues if there's a clash of home games.
"I also liaise with all opposition clubs to go through COVID-19 processes etc. I've created a match day protocols document for both Bishopstown and Turners Cross which I share with other clubs. It outlines the procedures on entering the ground, layout of dressing rooms and dugouts. I would also organise a pre-match questionnaire for anyone attending matches.
"This is a declaration that those attending are not displaying symptoms and it goes to media, match officials, club staff and parents of any underage players. I'm at every home game for all teams unless there's a clash. If there's a clash then there are a few volunteers who are fantastic and happy to help if needed. I'm in touch regularly with the FAI to ensure we're following the most up to date protocols. I feed this back to all the coaches in the club then to ensure the protocols are being followed at all levels.
“This season has been very different and strange. As Covid-19 Officer, I've been able to attend all games but my role on match night is now very different to when the season started in February."
Before games she needs to ensure the match venue is set up correctly for social distancing, signs are visible around the ground, hand sanitizer is readily available and assist with temperature-checking, while during the game she monitors the attendees to ensure social distancing is maintained.
"I'm one of the few people able to see both home and away games but it's very strange not having supporters in the grounds. You'd really miss catching up with everyone before the game. Prior to Covid I would have helped selling programmes or tickets, wherever I was needed.
“I'm really enjoying my current role and I'd love to progress the role further particularly on the community side of things where we've always done great work but it would be great to be more consistent on it. Regardless of what the future brings though I will continue to volunteer at the club.”
Involved with the club for over two decades, Ní Thuama has experienced many highs and some lows however this season’s relegation is a major blow for her and all involved at the club however she is optimistic that the club will be back playing in the top tier of football sooner rather than later.
“During my time at the club, I think the biggest change really has been going professional full-time again during the early Foras years. It was a positive move and something we had to do.
“There have been a few highlights over the years. The 2017 season in particular springs to mind. A league and FAI Cup double for the senior men's team, an FAI Cup win for the women's team and a league win for the boys' U17s team.
“This season was obviously very disappointing for all associated with the club, players, management, staff and supporters. The best reaction we can hope for is to bounce back immediately and bring Premier Division football back to Cork.
"Apart from the disappointing season we have had some highs also and with the women's team reaching the FAI Cup final and our academy teams doing very well we still have plenty to be positive about.”