Ephie Fitzgerald: Sport shouldn’t return before schools

The Cork manager, who recently committed to a sixth season in charge, doesn’t see League competitions being played in the coming months
Ephie Fitzgerald: Sport shouldn’t return before schools

Ephie Fitzgerald: ‘I don’t think collective training should resume until after March 5.’

Cork ladies football manager Ephie Fitzgerald has said collective training at inter-county level should not resume until after March 5.

The Government earlier this week extended the current Level 5 lockdown until March 5 and Fitzgerald believes there should be no return to collective inter-county training before this date.

The GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association pushed back the return date for collective inter-county training from January 15 to February 1 earlier this month, and it is expected there will be a second postponement in the coming days, along with an announcement of new throw-in dates for the various National Leagues.

The Cork manager, who recently committed to a sixth season in charge, doesn’t see League competitions being played in the coming months and added that there should be no return to inter-county activity before schools reopen.

“I don’t think collective training should resume until after March 5. Particularly now with the more virulent strains, I don’t see the value of bringing groups together like that.

“I don’t want to be putting anybody’s life at risk so I would prefer to wait and see,” said the 2016 All-Ireland winning manager.

“I do think it is better to wait until such a time as it is relatively safe to go back and to do that, the numbers have to be much lower than they are now, certainly in the low hundreds.

“I don’t think there is any validity in going back until they get the numbers under control and they get the vaccine rollout more formalised, that would be far more sensible.

“We are talking about football here, but when you look at what is going on in the hospitals, the nurses, carers, cleaning staff, the people that have to put their lives in danger every day of the week, my heart goes out to them. They are the real heroes. We talk about legends in sport. They are the people I just admire so much.”

If the various governing bodies give the green light for a return to training before March 5, Fitzgerald said Cork would gather in small pods and be “selective” in their approach to training.

“If we are not getting schools back, then I don’t think we should be getting sport back. Sport is very, very important, yes, but we have gone this far now, let’s wait and see what happens over the next month or two.

“I love my football and I accept sport is a lifeblood for us all, but last year, while we wanted to take part, I was consistent in saying I didn’t get any satisfaction in the year because of worries about the personal safety of the girls. Yes, we got to an All-Ireland final and all of that, [but] that’s forgotten about. Look at the amount of people that have died in January, it is frightening. I don’t want to be reading about my parents being statistics, or anybody else’s parents that I know either. Life is too short for that.”

A teacher at Cork’s Youthreach programme in Mahon, Fitzgerald is fearful of a “massive fallout” in mental health associated issues, particularly among the younger generation, as a result of the rolling lockdowns of the past 11 months.

“We are not getting statistics on depression and suicides at the moment, but I imagine they are up on what would be classed [as] the norm. We do need to look after one another and interact with one another.

“My experience in teaching nearly 40 years is that a problem shared is a problem halved. When you get it out there and share it with others, it doesn’t seem half as bad as it was.

“They are things that are dramatically missed and are the things we need to look at going forward. We will certainly be focusing on our group in school in terms of looking after that side of it for our kids.”

Elsewhere, Aislinn Desmond will captain the Kerry ladies in 2021.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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