Ex-Erne ace Ryan McCluskey calls for government to support gyms getting back up and running
FORMER Fermanagh stalwart Ryan McCluskey is a man with plenty on his mind. On Sunday, he will be back on the line as he resumes his coaching apprenticeship with Tyrone outfit Beragh when they face Strabane in the long-awaited first weekend of league fixtures.
Getting back to football will be a welcome break from the madness of the past month as, alongside former county team-mate Cathal Beacom, McCluskey has been working around the clock to ensure their Enniskillen gym and recovery unit – Focuskn – is fit for purpose when it eventually reopens its doors tomorrow.
Walls have been knocked through, strict procedures put in place and plenty of creative thinking required to ensure they can adapt to the ‘new normal’, with adherence to social distancing restrictions a necessity going forward.
Yet still it feels as though they are “going into the unknown”.
“There’s been nothing really set out for gyms but we’re basing what we have on the social distancing measures out there at the minute, so we’re just trying to do what we can - but it has been very hard work,” said the Enniskillen Gaels clubman.
“We have one big open unit now and we want to have as much space as we can for the likes of classes and another wee room for personal training. There has been very little direction though, it’s nearly like re-starting again.
“It’s been frustrating, to be honest. Not to give off about the pubs or any other businesses, but we felt we could easily deal with any measures that needed to be put in place to reopen before now. “We got onto Zoom pretty earlier and moved all our stuff online. We’re lucky we had a good group of clients and members who backed us through the whole thing, and we were very grateful of that.
“Maybe in some gyms it couldn’t be the case depending on size, but certainly our own gym could definitely have got back earlier.”
And while British chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised half price meals in restaurants next month - as well as cutting VAT on hospitality and tourism in a bid to stimulate a beleaguered economy in the wake of Covid-19 - McCluskey has been frustrated by the lack of financial support forthcoming for gyms.
He said: “There is a need for the government sit down and look at the functionality of businesses.
“We’re going to have to do more work, more classes because you’re going to be working with smaller group numbers, more hours, we’ve obviously had to restructure the place. It’s all come at a cost, during three months of trading well below capacity.
“We availed of a small grant like other businesses but there has been a massive knock-on.
It could crucify a lot of places, so we’re hoping some legislation might come in to give some kind of helping hand. I know they’re hopefully knocking rates on the head, but something needs to be done so businesses can get back on their feet in the wake of all this.
“It’s going to take a while for everyone.”
And Sunday’s game in Strabane, even if it is behind closed doors, will be a welcome distraction as McCluskey enters his second season with Beragh.
“We had a decent enough first season - the aim was to retain our Division Two status but we finished strongly and were probably unfortunate to miss out on a play-off game at the end. We’ve learned from that hopefully.
“We’ve dealt with Covid as well as we could, trying to get the boys busy, but it’s a tough period for all players and managers alike. It’s nice now to have a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
“Everyone’s looking forward to football and getting back at it.”