THE West Cork Senior and Schoolboys Leagues are anxious for a return to on-field action before the end of the year.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought a shuddering halt to the conclusion of an exciting 2019-20 WCL title-race as well as the beginning of new 2020 WCSL season.
Since then, managers, coaches, players, and supporters have been eagerly awaiting a return to on-field action.
Yet, similar to every other amateur and semi-professional football league around the country, the two bodies will only sanction fixtures once the HSE, the government, and the FAI deem it safe to do so.
A chink of light appeared at the end of a metaphorical dark tunnel last week. The FAI asked all club secretaries to consult with their clubs and determine whether the 2019-20 season should be (a) cancelled or (b) finished when government sanctions are eventually lifted.
Granted, nothing is likely to occur until after July 20 at the earliest, but supporters of local football are looking ahead with renewed enthusiasm rather than wondering if their favourite sport was ever going to make a reappearance.
WCL secretary John Buckley, his fellow committee members and clubs will be following the FAI’s directive and not resuming on-field action until it is deemed safe to do so.
“We are acting on any notices from the FAI as we receive them,” Buckley told The Echo.
“I guess it is down to ourselves at the end of the day, but in the interest of safety, ourselves, the FAI, and the Munster FA have a lot of things to take into consideration. What the etiquette will be when it comes to players sharing dressing rooms, how people travel to matches, and many other things that need to be addressed.
“Our hope is that matches can resume as they did before. There is a lot to be taken into account before any football can start again though. The West Cork League is just waiting for the go- ahead from the FAI and taking it from there.”
As for the West Cork Schoolboys League, chairperson Declan Deasy is as eager as any of his fellow local football community members to get back on the pitch, but not until it is deemed absolutely safe for children to do so.
“First and foremost, the West Cork Schoolboys League will follow the FAI’s directives,” Deasy said.
“The situation we currently find ourselves in means not playing any football is for the greater good. Would you like to see things restarted before July 20? Yes we would but that is just not feasible according to the FAI’s plan and we will abide by that.
“The reality is that nobody knows for sure what is going to happen after that date because things can go wrong and there might be setbacks when it comes to dealing with the Covid-19 virus. Hopefully, if absolutely everything goes according to plan then we might have a return to (schoolboys) football at the end of July or possibly into August or September.”
Schoolboys Leagues face the added danger of safely organising children’s (known carriers of the Covid-19 virus) training, matches, and transport while continuing to adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines.
A far from easy task considering the volume and varying age-groups within the west Cork region.
“Yes, it is going to be very difficult to organise and run schoolboys fixtures safely, there is no doubt about that,” the WCSL chairperson stated.
“Kids are kids and they love nothing more than to be messing about and dragging each other around the place. It is a hard task to tell them to stay two metres apart at the best of times. I believe organising dressing rooms will be an issue and we will need guidance from the authorities on that whenever we get back playing.
“It is hard on parents as well. We are dealing with a contact sport and children being carriers of the virus means there is a danger that young players could unintentionally bring Covid-19 into their homes.
“Even the simple thing of teams travelling to away games in four of five cars where parents take turns in transporting children will also need to be looked at very carefully.
“Social distancing is not going away either and looks set to stay with us for quite a while. There are massive issues to be dealt with around returning to action. That involves not just young players but their coaches and parents as well.”