A mind-blowing individual tally of 12-88 in all competitions last year identified Eimear Smyth as one of the top sharp-shooters of the ladies game and now the Erne star is eagerly looking forward to a return to the pitch.
Last week the LGFA confirmed the formats for the 2020 All-Ireland series had been decided with Johnny Garrity’s ladies back in the Junior Championship, with six counties competing, divided up into two groups of three teams.
Smyth believes this new system may suit Fermanagh and she is looking forward to getting back to the pitch and pushing for the much sought after semi-final spot.
“I think that the new format for the Junior Championship has definitely worked in our favour. Although the competition will be played later in the year than usual, I’m delighted to get playing any football at all this year.
“The teams involved are all very strong so it will be a really competitive championship. We’d love to get back to Croke Park this year without a doubt so will be aiming to keep improving as a team and push towards a semi-final spot.”
While she is aware that it will take a while to get used to some of the news protocols and regulations enforced in the ‘Safe Return to Gaelic Games’ roadmap, Smyth believes that the opportunity to get back on the pitch with a ball will make people more aware of how they can act to prevent a risk of a second wave of the virus.
“It is obviously very different to what we are used to but I think it’s just going to be a part of playing football from now on. It’s really important that everyone sticks to the rules and keeps up to date with any changes in the regulations. It has been a challenging time for everyone so the opportunity of getting back to some sort of normality means that we all have a part to play.”
The Derrygonnelly Harpette is conscious that there may be some players who are wary of a return to full contact training too soon but she insists that it should be every player’s choice if they want to return now and they should be under no pressure from anyone to do so if they don’t feel safe.
“That’s always a possibility but I suppose the government, the GAA and the LGFA are basing the return to play on medical advice so personally I’m happy to get back playing.
“We are starting off training in smaller groups and training is non-contact for the first few sessions so not only does it mean lots of running but interaction time with others is limited.
“Some players may be reluctant or unable to get back training in groups due to a medical condition or maybe someone at home is in the ‘at risk group’ but it is up to each individual whether they feel it is safe for them to take part given their own personal circumstances and teammates have to respect that.”