Harry Fay's brush with COVID19 and what's changed in a year

Harry Fay during his coaching days at Cliftonville alongside Barry Johnston (centre) and Barry Gray (right)

A YEAR after suffering the ravaging effects of COVID19, former Irish League coach Harry Fay says his brush with the deadly virus has given him a fresh perspective on life.

On March 20 2020, the 58-year-old former Cliftonville coach, who had no underlying health conditions, collapsed in hospital thinking that he was suffering a heart-attack.

The main symptoms were “excruciating” chest pains and profuse sweating. He later tested positive for COVID19 and through The Irish News last year he made a public plea to people to stay home as society began to shut down.

The previous month he'd been holidaying in southern Spain and attended an English Premier League game but can never be sure where he contracted the virus.

Almost 13 months on, he still has some lingering symptoms.

“Some mornings you think somebody hit you with a sledgehammer when you’re getting out of bed," he laughs. "Fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, hips – everything. Maybe it’s because I’m a year older!

“It really makes you think about life in general, it puts everything in perspective. Maybe it’s because I’ve stepped away from the football you have a bit more time to think about these things."

After over 30 years working in a mechanic’s garage, the Portadown man is now working in the private ambulance service.

“Every day is so refreshing because you’re out helping people. It grounds you too because you’re seeing people with different problems and you don’t realise how privileged you are to be able to get out and about and get back to your sport.

“It brings the basics of life back to you. We were all living life 100 mile an hour when you think about it.

“And after a while I just didn’t want to go back to my old job,” he adds. “I said to my wife that I needed something different, something to motivate me. I’m enjoying the change because you’re hearing people’s life stories in the back of the ambulance and they’re hearing mine.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air. It has really given me a lift. If somebody said to me a year ago you’d be working in an ambulance, I would have said that they weren’t right in the head, but I went and did the course and it's the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Fay (58), who enjoyed a brilliant playing career with Newry back in the 1980s before moving into coaching, is delighted to see outdoor sports return for children and while he misses watching Irish League football he’s “no burning desire” to return to the training field again.

“Seeing kids out playing again feels like the first bud of spring. I’ve grand-kids of my own and they were cooped up, they were like pigeons in a loft.”

Fay’s last coaching post was as Barry Gray’s assistant at Cliftonville.

“I don’t have any burning desire to get back coaching but I do miss going to watch games and meeting people you haven’t seen for a while.”

Meanwhile, two Irish Premiership games will kick off at 5.30pm tonight with Portadown hosting Cliftonville and leaders Linfield taking on Ballymena United at Windsor Park.

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