Murray Delighted To Be Back
There were plenty of smiles at Oriel Park on Monday morning as the Dundalk squad returned to training for the first time since March as the country entered phase two of the easing of restrictions.
Split into groups of 10 over two sessions, the players were put through their paces by strength and conditioning coach Graham Norton on the opening day of ‘Pre-Season Part II’.
Lilywhites midfielder Sean Murray was part of the second group who took part in a session for the first time in 12 weeks and speaking to dundalkfc.com afterwards, he said he was delighted to be back amongst friends.
“It was strange not seeing the boys every day,” he said. “That’s probably the main thing I have missed over the past three months. I don’t like the repetitiveness of training on your own so it’s good to be back with the group, and have a football involved.
“We kept in touch through Zoom and held training sessions on it and it was nice to have that hour or two where you’d do a session, have a bit of banter and then a chat after it. It was a good way to break up the day but it’s not the same as the real thing.”
Before training got underway, each member of the squad, along with Vinny Perth and his staff, were tested for COVID-19. It was the third test that the Lilywhites have undergone in the past fortnight and Murray said it was comforting to know that safety measures like that had been put in place by the FAI.
“It has been very reassuring, both for the players and the people we are around, knowing that we have been tested and we’re in a group that is being looked after properly,” he said.
“The club and the league deserve huge credit for that. If one person was concerned about coming back and was worried about their family’s welfare, it would affect the whole team so it’s great to have that sense of security.”
Murray has been based in Belfast for the past 12 weeks, using the city’s various parks and green areas to keep his fitness levels ticking over.
“I live up there now,” explained the 26-year-old. “I was in Dundalk for a year so it’s nice to try somewhere different. I’ve always liked travelling around, especially when I was in England and in Denmark, and I think you should try it whilst you can.”
The former Watford star has also been keeping an eye on what is happening across the water and, thankfully, his family, who are based in the UK, have remained untouched by the virus.
“All of my family are good,” he said. “They’ve all been off work, except my mum, who is a key worker in a store. I think she’d go crazy if she wasn’t working so it’s probably been good for her. It might be a while before I can see them but I check in with them all the time and they’re all okay.”
Some of his friends have seen their livelihood badly disrupted by COVID-19 and the havoc it has caused to the football industry, in particular.
“A lot of my friends from clubs that I was at in England have had their contracts ended,” he said. “It’s a strange time for everyone and we all just have to ride through it and hopefully everything will get back to normal.
“At the moment, I consider myself to be in a good position and when you consider what’s going on with the world, I’m very grateful for that,” he added.
Part of the FAI’s return to play programme involves a four-team tournament involving Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City but, from a domestic point of view, there is nothing planned beyond that. Murray, however, is hopeful that will change in the next couple of weeks.
“A few weeks ago we probably didn’t think we’d be playing any games but that tournament is another incentive and something to look forward to it,” said Murray. “If the league also restarted, then that would be a very good end to what has been a terrible start to the year.”
Pictures: Ciaran Culligan