WITH Cork City back in pre-season, manager Colin Healy believes that it is vital that players are able to complete a full pre-season to give them the best chance of promotion this season.
The City manager is cautious that the Omicron Covid variant might disrupt plans but the club will be doing everything in their power to protect the players as much as possible.
However, as seen with players playing at the highest level in England, it’s difficult to control players away from football but Healy is hoping that his players will be mindful in their personal lives.
“The new variant is going to make it challenging. Last year, we did quite well managing it. Erika [Ní Thurman] is the Covid officer, she did really really well, with checking lads' temperatures and other duties. We were very very careful,” Healy said.
“This year we are back to scratch now again and we will have to stick to the same protocols as last year. We have to be very careful.
“We have games coming in the next few weeks but we just need to be careful what we are doing around the place on the training ground and lads need to be careful outside of football.
It’s difficult trying to tell the lads what they should be doing away from the club.
"I think as a player, you need to realise the importance that you are coming back into a group and to be mindful of everyone else.
“Players can’t afford to miss too many days off. We need the players to be performing at a very high level.
“We will put things in place for the players and make them aware of what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and it has to come down to the players then to buy into what you are doing.
“You see some of the top players in England are still going out, players who are at the top of the profession so it really comes down to the players being responsible and doing what they believe is best.”
The City boss is also hoping that full crowds will be allowed into the stadiums when the season begins next month.
The fans made a difference last year. I keep saying ‘the fans are brilliant’. The players loved playing in front of them.
“I thought having the fans there brought confidence to the players. But at this time; I don’t know will we be able for full capacity at the grounds. The start of the season is still a few weeks off and things are constantly changing.
“I’m just hoping that the crowds will be okay.”
City made several early signings during the off-season and Healy is delighted with the club’s transfer business so far.
“We brought in a lot of lads early on. We are always looking at players for potential signings.
“It was great to get the new signings in early. There would have been a lot of interest with those lads so acting early certainly made it easier to bring in those lads and we are very happy with the signings we have made and how the squad is looking so far.”
Pre-season can be the most difficult time for a player but Healy is pleased with the condition his players have returned from the break, meaning Healy can spend less time focusing on the players' fitness in pre-season.
He is encouraged by what he has seen so far and believes that the club and much better off than they were 12 months ago.
“Pre-season is always difficult.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a player say they have had an easy one, but the players have come back in good condition which means we don’t have to run them in the ground every day.
“Last year was a tough year for all of us. We had a very bad start, which cost us at the end. But having said that, I thought last season we were very good. Players grew in confidence.
“They were in very good condition, which is credit to our strength and conditioning coaches.
“I’ve learned a lot from different people. Last year, we were starting from scratch and we were very late starting.
“In January, we didn’t really have a team. I think this year, we are ahead of the game. And I’d like to think the lads that we have brought in have made us stronger, and I’m hopeful that we will go on and have a good season.”