Eoin Donnelly: Fermanagh skipper helping to lead fight against coronavirus

Donnelly Fermanagh
Donnelly's commitments as a Gaelic footballer have taken a backseat amid the coronavirus pandemic

As Fermanagh captain, Eoin Donnelly has displayed good leadership qualities for years but right now he is involved in a much more important fight.

The 31-year-old is on the frontline as a respiratory physiotherapist helping the NHS battle the coronavirus pandemic and while he hopes to resume his football career later in the year, thoughts now are on saving lives.

Donnelly works in the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and says all the staff are preparing as best they can for the challenging weeks ahead.

"At the moment there is a lot of training and a lot of upskilling of our staff and just trying to get everybody ready for the unknown I suppose," he admitted.

"We are trying to do as much preparation as we can.

"The work I do takes in the respiratory wards, medical wards and our team extends to the stroke wards, cardiac wards and care of the elderly as well so we've got a lot of patients to take in.

"In this current climate there are a lot of vulnerable patients and at-risk patients.

"We are involved in acute management of the patients respiratory-wise and also mobilising patients and getting them ready to be discharged out of hospital as well."

'Football will be back' - Fermanagh's Donnelly on putting NHS job first

Like all NHS staff working on the frontline who are bravely facing danger every day, Donnelly is worried when he goes to work and worried when he comes home.

He says they have no choice but to "accept" the risks they are having to take.

"You go through phases," he says.

"You have to manage what you read and what you listen to and who you listen to and what information you are taking in.

"There are obviously risks involved, we are aware of that, and we follow the advice that is given to us in terms of Personal Protective Equipment and handwashing, hygiene and social distancing when we are in work, and social isolation when out of work.

"You have to look after yourself and try to keep your family safe as well. You are aware that you could be bringing viruses home, so we have to be very careful in what we do when we leave work, even with our clothes.

"There are times when you are aware you're at greater risk when you're out and about or in work, but that is something as an NHS worker... you are having to accept that risk, I suppose.

"I don't think anybody can say they have experienced anything like this in their career within the NHS.

"We are all learning as we go and trying to take on the advice we are getting."

Donnelly Fermanagh
Fermanagh were locked in a Division Two relegation battle before the season was halted

Fermanagh were in serious relegation trouble from Division Two of the Allianz Football League when the GAA season came to a halt a month ago.

It is not known if the leagues will be completed or if the inaugural Tier Two championship, which Fermanagh may well have had to play in, will proceed at all.

Any championship season is likely to be in a condensed format and while Donnelly, whose famous injury-time goal against Monaghan put Fermanagh through to the 2018 Ulster final, insists thoughts of football "are out the window" these days, he would be curious to see what a straight old-fashioned knockout championship with no back door would look like.

"A knockout championship as a one-off would be great to see and it could be the perfect time to try it out and see how it goes.

"We would love to see everyone out playing and training, whether its club or county but ultimately we want to get through this first and then see what we're left with.

"Obviously we are going to need to give people a bit of time to prepare and get teams together again if that's going to be feasible.

"If we have a shortened time period and we want to get a championship played, we still want our club players to have time to get their championships played off as well, so there is a lot of factors coming into it.

"But we are realistic and first of all it's about looking after people in vulnerable categories and our NHS workers, everyone who is on the front line and all our key workers.

"We don't want to be taking any risks so we have to stick to the guidance and if we get a championship up and running, whether it's Ulster or All-Ireland, then hopefully Fermanagh will be there as well."

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