The spread of the Coronavirus means we are living in unprecedented times.
The impact of the virus has been clearly seen not only in Northern Ireland, but right across Europe and further afield, with hardly any area of life left unscathed.
Football in the United Kingdom and Ireland has joined the likes of schools, libraries, shops and cafes in having to close their doors, as authorities grapple with getting the spread of the virus under control.
As well as hitting the finances of clubs, it also presents a huge challenge in keeping players fit for the resumption of the season, whenever that might be.
That is where Michael O’Boyle, the club’s Head Sports Therapist, comes into play.
Michael (pictured above) has been working behind the scenes at Inver Park since last summer, but could hardly have imagined his role would have involved helping to keep players fit during an indefinite mid-season break.
However, that is exactly where he finds himself, as he explains to larnefc.com.
“In these unprecedented times we have found this to be encouraging for creativity to prosper,” he said.
“We have designed specific training programmes for our first team squad which has now been extended to the ladies and development teams to ensure our players are staying in the best shape possible.
“There has also been a less intense programme designed for our youth teams to ensure all the players at the club are undergoing some physical activity while in self-isolation. It has provided a rare window of opportunity.
“Generally, in season there is very little time to solely work on fitness as the majority of the time is taken up with technical input. Therefore, we may come out the other side in a better physical place.”
Just what goes into planning such individual programmes though?
“A lot of factors go into designing training programmes for individual players,” he added.
“Without getting too technical, the main goal is to maintain the fitness capacity and load level of our players while addressing specific weakness or injury issues a player may have to ensure their risk of injury is reduced.
“However, general match fitness principles apply to the whole squad. During our training week we work on different elements of fitness using football and team-based drills.
“However, that is very difficult when players are training on their own and the element of fun/skill using a ball gets lost.
“With recommendations from our club doctor Niall Perry, players are safe to run on their own outside, so we have imposed specific drills which replicate the fitness used in match play.
“Training in isolation also means we don’t have access to our GPS, which means we cannot accurately monitor our player loads so there is a large element of trust given to players.
“Finally, with limited gym equipment to loan out to the players, they are not able to complete performance sessions to the standard that we would in training, but they have exercises prescribed to work on injury prevention.”
Understandably, there is a lack of clarity around just when football might be able to return and Michael admits this presents an addition challenge.
“It depends on how they structure the return of football,” he said.
“If there is no football for a number of months there would need to be a mini pre-season period where teams have the opportunity to rebuild their fitness and load capacity, both from a performance and injury perspective.
“If players go from no match loading straight into competitive fixtures their bodies will not be prepared for the demands of match play and injury incidences may increase.
“Hence, the significance of our squad continuing their injury prevention and loading work. This is more difficult with majority of the league training as a part-time set up and it may take those clubs longer to restore full fitness and performance levels following a prolonged break.”
Keep an eye on www.larnefc.com for the second part of our in-depth interview with Michael, coming up early next week, where he takes us behind the scenes on a more typical week of training, as well as giving us an update on two first team members making their way back from injury.