by Declan Rooney
Little did they know, but Tyrone Ladies were already fully armed in their battle to cope with home training as the coronavirus called a halt to group sessions.
With a squad of more than 30 players all operating out of their back yards, tethered together only by social media, the talents of the county’s strength and conditioning coach Sarah Connolly came to the fore. An online performance coach who specialises in female health and fitness, Connolly quickly stepped up to ensure the Red Hands could maintain and build on the work they have already put in for 2020.
Team captain Neamh Woods (30) is well schooled in the needs of physical education as a teacher of the subject at St Ciaran’s College Ballygawley and she underlined the importance of her former county colleague in the team’s recent efforts.
“We’re all training away, doing what we can from home. It’s particularly good with Tyrone because Sarah is an online performance coach anyway, so she is there with us in person,” said Woods, who skippered the county to the 2018 TG4 Intermediate title.
“Her business is online based, so she is well used to dealing with her clients that way, which is great. It’s a wee bit new for us, but it’s the only way we have of accessing her.
“She sends through a new workout on a daily basis, and a different S&C programme every week. It all depends on what equipment we have, the sessions are tailored towards that. We are very fortunate that we have Sarah there to help us through and that she is able to monitor what we are doing.
“Sarah has put in some competitions in there too, which are based on time. She’ll give us certain exercises that have to be timed as well as some timed runs too. Needless to say when you have a group of very competitive girls it doesn’t take much to try and get us competing with each other at all.
“But it’s a bit of fun along with it as well. Even morale-wise it keeps that communication alive and bring a bit of fun with it, which is vital.”
Like Connolly, Woods has had to take to online tutoring as she tries to guide her GCSE and A-Level students through her PE classes as well as Health and Social Care. Google Classroom has become her new working environment and to date the forward-thinking of her school has served her well in the changed environment.
“Yeah it definitely was a concern at the start, but I suppose the work we had done to pre-empt that helped. Our school principal was very proactive in ensuring that we all had Google Classroom operational and online work ready to roll out if and when that situation did present itself,” said the Drumragh Sarsfields player, a TG4 All Star in 2018, and Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year.
“The Friday before St Patrick’s Day we had all of our work nearly good to go at that stage. By chance we happened to be off the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for St Patrick’s Day this year. We had a staff day the Friday before so it gave us that wee bit of time before the break to get ourselves organised and to get everything uploaded electronically.
“Some of the younger generation would use e-learning anyway in our classes in the normal school year, but for some teachers that was a whole new world. I can imagine that would be stressful and it would have caused some teachers around the country to be anxious if they are getting into something that they are not used to, and having to learn something new at this stage of their career, but it seems to be working well.”
Seeing their Lidl National Football League Division 2 campaign called to a halt brought some regret to Woods, who felt the side were in a good spot to launch a drive for promotion with two games remaining. A mouth-watering TG4 Ulster Senior Championship remains on ice, but whatever happens she just can’t wait to get back to collective training and playing.
“It has been a good season, certainly a more promising league campaign than the last few years. At the start of this year our targets would have been to be promoted out of Division 2 and we were also targeting an Ulster championship.
“The Ulster Senior Championship is probably the most competitive championship because between ourselves, Armagh, Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, we could all beat each other on any day.
“In Ulster we had two group this year, which would have been interesting. The All-Ireland championship was going to two groups too, but I suppose it will all depend on the time that we have to play out the competition.
“In the men’s game there has been plenty of discussion about a straight knock out and it’d be brilliant in a sense. You’d have one chance at it and that in itself makes it pure exciting and very different compared to the last number of years when we had that security of having group matches there.
“The main thing is to have it played because you still want your championship and an All-Ireland winner this year.”Tweet