Tony McNamee slides in on Daniel Lafferty of Shamrock Rovers at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin Picture Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Tony McNamee is first to admit that he and his Finn Harps team-mates are the lucky ones when it comes to football during lockdown.
And he knows only too well that there are many players and coaches across a range of sports who might be wondering why it’s okay for the League of Ireland to make a return, yet for so many other sports, it’s not.
Harps have been training regularly on the fantastic new astro-turf facilities at Letterkenny Community Centre - the only downside being that they do so in full view of those passing along the busy Pearse Road.
“I have been speaking to a few boys, the likes of those who are playing Intermediate football here, and even the boys I play Gaelic with,” McNamee said.
“I wouldn’t say they aren’t happy about it, but it’s not really our fault that we have been told we can go ahead and train.
“We know though that we are very lucky that we are allowed to train, and allowed to play.”
The Ramelton man insists pre-season has gone well, even if he was never a fan of all the hard-work that goes with preparing for a new campaign.
“But everyone comes into pre-season nowadays in decent shape,” he pointed out.
“You don’t want to be left behind. Then it’s just a case of getting fitter as the time goes. Obviously the matches in pre-season give you match-fitness on top of the training.”
Finn Harps midfielder Tony McNamee in action against Seán Gannon of Dundalk
PICTURE: Ben McShane/Sportsfile
He also says the training is that bit more enjoyable when the facilities are as good as they’ve been using in recent seasons.
“It’s the one thing we are lucky with, the fact that we have the community centre here and to be fair the people at the Finn Valley Centre have been very good to us as well,” he said.
“There were a couple of days with the bad snow, we got the pitch cleared to allow us to train.”
The 27-year-old was one of the first players to put pen to paper on a new deal ahead of the new campaign. His brother Barry and Mark Timlin signed before him, and Tony said he had no hesitation in signing again.
“Obviously at the end of every season, you want to take a week or two before you decide on what you’re doing for the following year,” he said.
“But I think because we finished the season so well, it was another reason to come back and I’m excited now ahead of the new campaign.
Tony McNamee jumps with Michael Barker of Bohemians in the Premier Division at Dalymount Park last October PICTURE: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
He added, “I know I took two years out, but the squad seems to have improved every year since I came into the club in 2015.
“Technically-wise we probably have the best squad we have had in years.
“Obviously the first thing anyone wants from a Harps team is that first and foremost you work hard and do the dogged stuff fairly well. You’ve got to make Finn Park a hard place to come to to get results.
“But technically we’ve got the best squad of players since I’ve been here anyway.”
Given that Harps are facing into a 36-game league season (last year’s shortened campaign saw only 18 league games played), McNamee knows that having a squad filled with depth and quality will be important.
“No one wants to come here and sit on the bench, or sit in the stand, to watch the games,” he said.
“There are 27 or 28 players here and everyone wants to play. It’s one of those things. We’ll probably be playing twice a week quite a bit so you will need the basis of a good squad.
“And I don’t think any player will play every minute of every game this season. There is competition for places all over the pitch which will be a big help."
Finn Harps kick off their new Premier Division season on Saturday with a home game against Bohemians, kick-off at 6pm.
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