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Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor lifts lid on ‘nightmare’ week

Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O'Connor, centre.
Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O'Connor, centre.

Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor has had another nightmarish week trying to prepare his side after further Covid cases among the players.

Grammar, who are due to face Premiership leaders Currie at Rubislaw on Saturday, had some concern during the week about whether training and the game would go ahead.

At the time of publication the game was still on but after six positive cases by Wednesday, it has left O’Connor in a difficult position.

Grammar have seen their first two games of 2022, against Musselburgh and Hawick, postponed as part of a league arrangement which allowed teams to call off games amid rising Covid cases nationwide.

But with this week’s developments Grammar’s preparation has been hampered, when they already find themselves in a precarious position at the bottom of the table.

O’Connor said: “After Saturday we were feeling ready to get back to it. We’ve had some positive training sessions – obviously the guys who were isolating weren’t involved – and guys are itching back into league business.

“But if the medical side say it’s not right to do then we just have to respect that. We’re keen to play but it’s the tale of our season.

Aberdeen Grammar in their mudbath against Marr last weekend
Aberdeen Grammar have not had a game since their defeat to Jed Forest in December

“With every week you go without a game, you lose a bit of sharpness. If we learned anything from the start of the season, not being able to start the season at the same time as everyone else means other teams have a start on you.

“What you need is a full squad of about 40 lads training but we’ve been working with half that, with guys either isolating or unavailable.

“I can’t lie, it’s difficult. But it’ll be the same across the country I imagine and we’ve just got to do our very best when we get out on the pitch.”

Grammar have dealt with Covid and injury issues all season, which has played a significant part in their league position.

They still have five games to save themselves but the margin for error has been reduced to virtually zero.

O’Connor added: “It is a nightmare having to shift players in and out. You’re having to combine an injury-list with an illness-list and you realise you’re other either short of props or front rows, which then limits your capacity to put players on the bench.

Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O'Connor
Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor

“You’re also playing a lot of players out of position and when you do that, there is a safety element to it. Particularly when you’re asking guys in the forwards to do stuff they’re either not confident or strong enough for.

“It’s a pretty different existence, when I think back to what a relatively simple task it was two years ago. Everything has changed – not just rugby – and it’s going to be with us for a while to come yet, so we’ve just got to get used to it.

“I’m not sure, before Saturday, we’ll have that squad all together training which before playing the top team in the league, sounds like a recipe for disaster.

“But rugby’s a funny game. Sometimes when your back’s up against the wall and you’ve had zero preparation, it all clicks and that’s what we live in hope for. But it’s not ideal.”

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