EIMEAR Scally wants to get back playing for Cork following an injury-ravaged year – but not until it’s safe to do so.
The Covid-19 crisis has denied All-Ireland winner Scally and her Cork teammates an opportunity to claim the county’s 13th national league Division 1 crown and also contest for the All-Ireland, but the Éire Óg player has benefited from the suspension of all GAA activities because it’s allowed her time to recover from a back problem.
Working in her father Tom Scally’s SuperValu Blackrock supermarket has kept the Cork forward busy since completing her exams.
‘Things are going well enough and I only started working in the main office a week ago, but it’s all good experience and I’m learning the ropes,’ Scally told The Southern Star.
‘I am being kept busy which I am happy enough about. Before the global pandemic ever happened, I had been hampered by a persistent back injury and hadn’t been playing that much. The complete shutdown of all GAA activities gave me the time to go away and rehab the injury which I was grateful for.
‘The rehab is almost complete now and my back feels fine again. I didn’t mind working away on my own, to be honest, as it gave me time to focus on the injury. There was no pressure to be back for Cork. Even though it meant working out on my own, I really didn’t mind as I had the time and space to recover properly.’
Scally is no stranger to injuries having suffered a concussion during Cork’s opening 2020 Division 1 opener against Westmeath at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. But engaging with the Irish senior rugby and the Irish boxing high performance Team Doctor meant Scally was in the best possible hands.
‘The concussion was a setback, but my back injury was worse,’ Scally noted.
‘I had to go to a specialist, Dr Éanna Falvey, and Limerick physiotherapist Sarah Lavin as well as Laura Harrington. Dr Falvey told me to rehab the back for an eight-week period so not having any GAA matches has helped enormously.
‘Once I recovered from that concussion, I was playing a bit of college football but still struggling with my back. The Cork set-up were very good to me and told me to finish out the college fixtures before coming back. Unfortunately, Covid-19 meant I wasn’t able to return to training and playing full-time and now, no one is sure when we will be back.’
Irish sporting bodies, including the LGFA, are following HSE and government guidelines as part of their step-by-step process before returning to on-field activities. It’s a deliberately slow and patient procedure but a necessary one as players safety is paramount.
With that in mind, the LGFA engaged in an extensive consultation process with its members and got feedback from its county and club players, county managers, club and county board officers, and referees via a survey last week.
A subsequent LGFA statement confirmed: ‘It is unlikely that inter-county games will be played before October at the earliest, the LGFA is now recommending that inter-county training should cease for now, and only resume when it is advised to do so.’
Scally’s position on what should happen next is crystal clear.
‘I didn’t read through the entire survey because, being honest, my head has been driven crazy with the daily online and social media coverage of the virus,’ she admitted.
‘I am 100 per cent along the same lines as Cork head coach Paddy O’Shea and Dublin manager Mick Bohan in that there should be no football played until there is zero per cent chance of anyone involved contracting Covid-19. As much as you’d miss playing football at times, unfortunately, seeing people die from the virus means it is not the most important thing right now.
‘Obviously, as an inter-county player, you miss the summer days out training and camaraderie with the girls but until it’s safe to do so, I would not be in favour of going back.
‘On the other hand, I’m different to other players in that I have not had a proper break with the last four or five years between the roll over from club to college and then county, so I’m not missing inter-county football as much as others are if I am to be brutally honest.
‘This year has been a difficult one in that I was injured at the start and then out for a few weeks with concussion. It was, at times, very frustrating. So, while everyone is missing football right now, on a personal note, I badly needed a long break to help recuperate from my injuries. In that regard, I’ve been lucky.’
When asked about the prospect of playing games behind closed doors, the Éire Óg forward makes a valid point about weighing up player safety before the LGFA should sanction such a move.
‘I’m not particularly in favour of playing games behind closed doors,’ Scally explained.
‘If you cannot permit people in through the gates to watch a GAA game then why is it safe for players to be out there? It is worth remembering that we are going home to families and friends immediately after as well. We are not professional players either and have jobs and careers to think of.
‘I love nothing more than representing Éire Óg and Cork and cannot wait to get back playing but I don’t see how we can make a return to football until it is safe for everyone in society to mingle amongst one another again.’