'I wouldn't go into the football environment with Armagh unless it was safe: Jim McCorry
JIM McCorry admits that he wouldn't have been part of the Armagh management team this year had he not been convinced that everything was being done to insulate the players and their mentors from Covid-19.
Lurgan native McCorry has made a full recovery from a kidney cancer diagnosis in 2017 but, since Covid infection would have serious implications for his health, the Orchard county assistant-manager remains in the at-risk group.
Thankfully, he has been reassured by the measures put in place by manager Kieran McGeeney and the Armagh County Board and is content that the training environment is safe to work in.
“I would be in the vulnerable category and I would be very careful and very wary of the outside world at the minute," said McCorry.
"I missed sport but this virus has caused so much damage throughout the world so not having football for six months is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things when you consider how many deaths there has been and the people who aren't getting medical treatment at the minute and the numbers of suicides in the community. There are so many things out there that put sport into context.
"I wouldn't go into the football environment with Armagh unless it was safe. From my own personal point of view, I feel safe with all the precautions that the county is taking."
From hand-washing to sterilising equipment and social distancing, McCorry says the Armagh camp does all it can to keep Covid-19 at bay as they prepare for important Division Two games against Roscommon (home) and Clare (away) before they meet Derry in the Ulster Championship.
“Croke Park have issued detailed guidance for all counties to operate from and we're complying with them fully," said McCorry.
“There are measures there for training and changing rooms – disinfecting all the equipment you're using, separate water bottles… All those different things and we talk to the players outside, on the pitch.
“Everybody has to complete the health questionnaire before they go to training, check temperatures and tell anybody with any signs of anything at all not to travel. If Kieran brings the players inside, the first thing he says is ‘right, separate' so that everybody is distancing and we don't keep them for too long if we are inside. The boys come straight to training and then go straight home so there are all sorts of things we do."
Of course McCorry is delighted to be back in the Armagh bubble. The six-month break was a difficult one for someone who has been involved in football practically his entire life and had spells as manager of Armagh (in the 1990s), Mayobridge, Kilcoo and Down before linking up with McGeeney in 2018.
“The players and the management team we have are a great bunch of people to be around so it was tough missing that from a social aspect," he said.
"We work hard at what we do but we enjoy what we do and that is probably the recipe for success in most things.
"I really missed that aspect so it was great to get back in again last week and see all the faces again. We kept in touch with Zoom and Whatsapp but actually getting back onto the football field and seeing the players again was great.
“We're trying to get back into some sort of structure again like every other county and improve on that leading into the two games we have left in the League and into the first round of the UIster Championship."
County training resumed last week at Callanbridge and the squad is full of players impatient for inter-county action to resume after an Armagh championship that was entertaining and, according to McCorry, packed with quality.
“This year's club championships have been brilliant," he said.
“I was watching games in other counties as well – there was a feast of football with counties streaming matches. The Armagh TV coverage was fantastic – the number of games they covered from junior right up, the analysis was good and the commentary was good.
“The standard of football in Armagh was fantastic across the board – some of the games I watched were of a really high standard. You can see the tactical awareness of club managers now – very solid defensive structures but really good attacking football with plenty of scores and games going down to the wire. You had everything and it was great to watch.”