GETTING back to some sort of normality in our lives has been a blessing, and none more so than for Cork City player Daire O’Connor.
O’Connor admits his routine didn’t change too much during lockdown; however, being able to get back on the pitch with the lads and look forward to the season ahead brings normality to his life once again.
“Ironically enough, the whole lockdown wasn’t too far removed from a normal training day for myself; however, being back on the training ground with my team mates has been a breath of fresh air,” said O’Connor.
“The major change for me really was I never set an alarm to wake up and I was at home with my family in Wicklow. I’d train early enough in the afternoon, come home, nap, eat, and stretch as I would on a normal training day. Then just kick the feet up and prep the body for the next day’s session.
“It’s a carbon copy of what we do every day after training but naturally I probably watched a bit more Netflix and played a bit too much Playstation, but didn’t feel as guilty as I normally would doing that,” laughs O’Connor.
“It’s brilliant to be back, despite the original limitations on training, it was newfound freedom we didn’t have for three months so even knocking a ball around with the lads was a novelty on our first day back.
“We weren’t flogged with senseless running on the first day either as that’d be an injury hazard, so it was genuinely just a taster for football again and prepping the body for what’s to come in the coming weeks.”
With the uncertainty at the beginning of lockdown, O’Connor decided to approach his time and make it as valuable as possible.
“I genuinely enjoyed training during lockdown, I found the best way to approach it was to be organised, set weekly goals and make sure I hit them before moving onto the next stage of training the following week.
“I got myself a heart rate monitor and GPS vest so I could gauge my improvements which also kept me motivated,” he said.
“When the whole lockdown first started we were under the impression we would be back mid-May, so it was paramount we kept a high intensity of training to come back without losing our base we developed in pre-season.
“By the time late April and early May came around though it was apparent there was quite some time until a resumption, but by then I already had a six-eight week base of high-intensity training completed.
“So whereas it could’ve made sense to take the foot off the pedal, it seemed an awful waste to just slack it all off and lose six weeks of training and start from scratch again in a few weeks. That way we felt compelled to keep going so we didn’t lose what we’d earned fitness-wise!
“Had you told us mid-March, however, we wouldn’t be back ’til the end of June it would have been a lot tougher to maintain training so indirectly the false of an earlier resumption being knocked back every few weeks actually kept me going.”
Although there were some negatives with regards to players’ wages throughout Covid-19, O’Connor was full of praise for all involved at the club.
“The board and staff were exceptional with us on all fronts, they kept us informed and gave us updates every few weeks with regards to where they stood with wages and how it was going to work going forward.
“I’d obviously moved back with my family so my expenditure had dropped dramatically, and nowhere was opened to take my money anyways, but overall I was happy and I felt the club couldn’t have done any better in the situation.”
So what are the aims for the remainder of the season?
“The most straightforward aim is to just progress up the table as quick as possible. Did we get off to the best of starts? The short answer is no, we didn’t. That said, we endured two tough fixtures against the top two teams away from home very early into the season which left us a bit deflated but I was delighted in the manner we responded by beating Harps at home.
“We’ve 13 games now to kick on and show this City what we’re about and I’m confident after another four weeks together before the season resumes we’ll be in a good position to drive upwards on that league table.
“My personal aim was to hit 10-15 goals this season; however, with just 13 games to play, I’ll be expecting a call from Guardiola if I hit that target! The aim is very much to drive the team on, doing so by setting up chances and taking my own chances when I get them.
“I want to excite the fans, get them excited to come to watch us, be it online via streaming, in the ground if that’ll be permitted, or whatever method is in place for the supporters to follow us.
“For a lot of us here at Cork, we’ll actually be fairly accustomed to the prospect of playing behind closed doors. I spent four years at UCD after all playing in front of scantily filled stands.
“A lot of our lads have come through the U19s route not so long ago whose games wouldn’t necessarily have packed Bishopstown training ground either so I genuinely don’t think we’ll be too surprised with the surroundings.
“Of course you want the fans to be there, there’s no comparison to which we’d prefer and I think anyone of us would say it’s the fans that drove us over the line to beat Harps 1-0 last March.
“We will have to be resilient and maintain that focus which we may have fed off from crowds before but I hope we can celebrate in front of the Shed end sooner than later.”