IT’S just over one year since former Cork City captain Conor McCarthy signed for St Mirren. It’s fair to say it’s been a dramatic 12 months for the Blarney native.
McCarthy uprooted his life by moving to a new country to try his luck in the Scottish Premiership only to return to Cork two months later because of the cancellation of the league over coronavirus.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on everyone’s life and McCarthy himself knows just how dangerous the virus can be having contracted it in November.
“It was a strange start for me because having arrived at the club in January last year and begun playing games straight away, within the space of two months the league was cancelled, and I was back in Cork before I had any time to settle into my new environment,” he said.
“It was great getting back in the summer and getting a proper pre-season under my belt because obviously when I joined the club I had just come off the back of the off-season in the League of Ireland and only had been doing bits of training myself and everyone knows just how important it is to have a good pre-season to enable you for the season ahead.
“It’s certainly been different this year without the supporters in the stadium and the regulations in place because of Covid. I know myself how important it is to have these regulations in place to try and stop the spread of the virus having had the virus myself back in November.
“Through no fault of the club, because, the measures they put in place to protect everyone in the club are excellent, there was an outbreak of the infection in the team and I was one of the players to get coronavirus.
“It really did affect me. I was very weak and tired but yet, I was struggling to sleep because of my high temperature, I couldn’t sleep.
"The sweat would be dripping off me in bed. I also lost my sense of smell and taste. Anything that I ate tasted like cardboard. It was no difference to me if I was eating plain toast or having a saucy pasta dish, it all tasted like cardboard. Drinks were the same.
“I would say coffee is probably the strongest drink I would have in terms of taste, but it was like having hot water. I had to isolate for 10 days but my sense of taste and smell didn’t return for about four weeks.
I was lucky they returned so quickly because I know of others who’ve had symptoms last for six months, and I must admit I was worried would my sense of smell and taste wouldn’t return.
“Coronavirus can affect your breathing and it is a worry that players who have contracted the virus might suffer heart issues, so I had to go for a heart scan which is organised by the club but is made mandatory by the Scottish Football Association.
“It’s not a case of simply returning to training straight away. Players must gradually build their way back into full training by doing exercises every day and it was about a week from returning to the club that I was training fully again.”
It was announced that despite the recent lockdown in the UK that elite sport would be allowed to continue, something that has seen by some as unfair on professional sportspeople, but McCarthy said he is delighted to be still able to go to work every day.
“I would consider myself one of the lucky ones. I get to go training and play matches. I suppose having already had the virus and come through the other side it has eased my mind knowing that I should be immune to the virus for three months after contracting it.
“I won’t be tested again for Covid until February. I suppose if I hadn’t the virus, I would be more cautious and worried about contracting it.
“I do know of a player who has had the virus twice so I’m still a little bit worried, but the club are putting in so much effort to make everything safe for the staff and players that it does ease player’s minds.”
McCarthy has enjoyed some memorable moments, most notable his goal against Rangers in the club’s 3-2 victory over the Gers in their League Cup encounter this season but the defender sees just playing week-in-week-out as his proudest achievement so far.
“Scoring the winner against Rangers is definitely one of the highlights but playing every week is what has satisfied me the most.
“Coming over from League of Ireland, a league which I consider a great league for young prospecting players, to playing every week against more senior professionals with a bit more experience has been a learning curve and something I believed that I have adjusted to well.”