“IT came as a huge surprise,” admitted Ciara McNamara, but there was nothing she could do.
Just three days before the new Women’s National League season was set to kick off came the news that she and her Cork City teammates were fearing.
The opening games were postponed.
“You are gearing up for the season with training in January, you’re into February and you’re getting your pre-season games in, you’re getting ready,” she adds.
“You’re getting good momentum, we are clicking as a team, we got new players in like Becky (Cassin) and Carys (Johnson) so we are getting to know what they are like.
“Then all of sudden, you are hearing the start of the season has been cancelled.
“Everything shuts down basically and now we’re not sure what to do really. We had been gearing up for the season and now we have all this time on our hands.”
But while the news initially came as a surprise and was then greeted with disappointment, there was also a great deal of understanding from McNamara and her club as concerns for the public’s health came to the fore.
“It is difficult but we just have to get on with it,” insists the defender.
“Everyone is kind of bored really, we try to talk about different things but the outbreak just comes up in natural conversation. But it is the right decision, the safety of everyone is paramount.
“Football isn’t the be all and end all, people’s health is more important. It is frustrating the timing of it but we will just have to grind it out and hope that it doesn’t last too long and that we’re not too far into the season before we finally get going.”
The new date for the campaign to begin has yet to be announced but to ensure that the squad don’t lose the fitness and sharpness that they built up during pre season, they have been given individual training programmes to do from home.
While it’s far from ideal, it has also given McNamara and others the chance to work on improving certain aspects of their game.
“At the moment we have our own training plan that the lads have given us and we are following that on our own which is good but it’s not the same,” she admits.
“I’m lucky enough as well I do one to one coaching with Craig Robinson when I can and that is something which is handy because it allows me to work on my technical stuff.
‘It gives me the chance to maybe work on something that I need to improve on and it has probably given us the chance to do more strength based training which we wouldn’t normally have time to get done and that may mean we avoid niggles and injuries down the line.
“I was playing with the college as well so it is probably no harm to get an extra bit of break as well intensity wise because there was a lot of games we had to play.
“Everyone has their own individual programme but it can be hard on your own, it can be hard to motivate yourself to go out and do it. But the girls are all in contact and we check in with each other to see how we are getting on and the lads do try to implement a bit of competition as well.
“We did a keepy uppy challenge one day, we sent in our scores and we had a leaderboard to see what each other got so that helps the players connect with each other even though we are not training together.”
The centre-back is used to training and playing games on a regular basis between her club and her university.
While the break may ultimately help her form with City in the long run, it may also mean she has worn the famous UCC jersey for the last time.
“I find it very, very strange,” says the final year student.
“Between UCC and Cork City I would be training on the pitch four or five times a week. I would then have a match with UCC in midweek and then Cork City at the weekend so it is very, very strange without that.
“I played a friendly against the Irish defence forces recently and that could potentially be my last game ever with UCC because I’m in my final year.
“Inter-varsities has been postponed so I’m hoping that they decided to just have it in October or something, I’m trying to be positive but I’m realistic as well but hopefully I’ll play for them again.
“Sometimes we do take sport for granted, whether you are playing, watching or reporting. There are times I must admit when you would be allergic to training and you just want to sit at home and watch tv but now I would absolutely love to be able to go training, to just kick a ball around.
“Sometimes you don’t understand how important it is, it’s where you meet your friends and some familiar faces, I haven’t seen them in god knows how long. It’s an outlet, it’s something we look forward to be it training or matches. You’d miss sitting at home on a Sunday and watching matches or checking scores of different games.”
But this strange period will end and then we can finally see Ciara and Cork City showcase their talents in the Women’s National League.