JUST three days before the new Women’s National League season was set to start came the news that Cork City’s players and staff were dreading.
“All of the club’s academy and women’s team matches will also be postponed until further notice,” read a statement on the club’s official website.
After weeks of training and pre-season friendlies, the kick-off date for the new campaign had to be pushed back due to the outbreak of the coronavirus across the Republic of Ireland.
But while the announcement came as a disappointment to everyone involved, City women’s manager Rónán Collins insisted the decision was completely understandable.
“Obviously we are really disappointed by it but the circumstances that are in it takes precedence,” he told The Echo.
“We will just have to look at what we can get done in this period now to make the best of the situation at hand.
“If measures like this are being taken it is because it is a very serious situation so we have to look at how we can be responsible for the community in that area.
“So we won’t be training as a team or even in small groups but we will give the players individual programmes to work on over the time.
“It’s understandable, it can’t be helped so you have just got to work in the circumstances that you are in.
“All the teams are in the same boat so nobody is getting an advantage out of it so it is now about how we can best equip ourselves for when the league does begin.
“It’s about the community more than anything.
“Obviously, there are people that are close to the players that could be very affected by this so gatherings such as matches are not right, they’re not ideal.
“So it is totally understandable why this decision has been made.”
Collins and a couple of his new signings Becky Cassin and Carys Johnson spoke to The Echo in recent weeks about their excitement ahead of the new campaign and how they believed it would be a successful one.
City were undone at stages last season by a hectic and unhelpful fixture list but Collins isn’t worried about the possibility that could be repeated this term.
“There is no doubt that this is going to cause fixtures issues but I don’t think we can really have concern about that now,” he said.
“Nobody really knows how long the current break is going to go on for. When things restart will there be the need for another break later on?
“Fixtures will be up in the air but by the time we do start playing again we need to be appreciative of the opportunities we do have and we need to make the most of it.
“We will be happy to be on the pitch playing again.”
This unusual situation will also cause disturbances to the players' personal lives while Collins, who works as a primary school teacher, will also face time off work.
And while he admits it is going to take a while to adapt, he is hoping to make the most of his newfound free time.
“I work with kids with special needs and our school has been put on hold as well,” he said.
“We were able to get some work for the kids at home but it is definitely going to be change in their routine.
“It’s going to be very hard on parents as well in terms of organising babysitters but it is going to be a big change for everyone in society and there is going to be an adjustment period but it has been shown that it does work elsewhere in the world and it is under the best medical advice.
“It gives us all an opportunity to look at other things that we are trying to develop in ourselves, that’s something I’ll be looking at myself.
“I am doing an education programme at the moment and a coaching programme so it’s going to give me a bit of time to actually settle and do them.”
When things eventually return to normal and City finally kick-off the 2020 season, they will do so with a new captain.
After spending last season alternating skippers, the decision has been made to reward goalkeeper Maria O’Sullivan’s excellent displays by giving her the armband on a permanent basis.
“Maria has been super,” enthused Collins about the Ballincollig native.
“She is a really good trainer, she has a really good attitude and she works well with the other players in the squad.
“It’s a great opportunity moving forward for her moving forward.
“When we met with Maria to tell her I know one of the big things for her is she said it is just an armband and she is going to continue being the player she was and the person she was.
“That is one of the big things we saw in her is how grounded she is and she has that ability to work with everyone as well.
“It’s great to give players that opportunity to captain Cork City and to represent the club in that way and Maria has worked hard for that opportunity and we want to give it to her.
“Last year we had a group of captains and they all did well, they all had that opportunity to lead so we thought we would just go for this option this season.”