Tony McInally cannot be sure if his Cumnock team will come back stronger for their year out of football, but he is adamant the decision to put themselves first was a no-brainer.

Supporters will recall how the fallen giants were one of five Premier Division outfits, along with arch rivals Auchinleck Talbot, Glenafton, Pollok and Kilbirnie Ladeside, to withdraw from this season’s inaugural WOSFL campaign before a ball was kicked (Benburb subsequently boosted the number of withdrawals to six).

“It was the right thing to do back then and I would respectfully suggest it is still the right thing in light of the recent coronavirus-enforced suspension of all lower league football," insisted the experienced manager.

“This latest bout of lockdown restrictions is at best due to end towards the end of February which is fully seven months into what is our traditional August-May season yet the vast majority of Premier clubs have only got through 25% of their fixtures.

“Not surprising therefore to hear doubts now being voiced as to whether there is any point in another restart to the season because of the likelihood it cannot be played to a conclusion.

”Clubs who have committed to playing will be deeply frustrated but there was always the possibility of something along these lines cropping up.”

Cumnock may have done nothing of note in recent seasons and little in the Covid-affected time that Macca has been in charge, however he is staunchly optimistic that better times are just around the corner.

He insisted: “Coming here at first, my job was more of a firefighting stint than anything else and it took a while to begin the process of putting in a few foundation stones.

“But hardly had we stabilised our league position and started looking to the future than the first lockdown came into effect and put most of our plans on hold.

“I say most because Cumnock’s officials have never stopped working behind the scenes to have us in a state of readiness to meet the SFA’s licensing criteria and it’s to their great credit that we are now there or thereabouts.”

Macca and much-respected Townhead Park No.2, Branco (Mark Cameron) believe  Cumnock are also in a far better place from a playing perspective after the duo made a number of tweaks to their dressing room before and during lockdown, inclusive of allowing a number of their charges to go out on loan deals.

And the Nock gaffer says he is totally relaxed about goalkeeper Kieran Hughes (Caledonian Braves), Chris Campbell (Maybole), Nathan Baird (Irvine Meadow), Owen Bell (Annan Athletic), Grant Thorburn (Irvine Vics), Ruairdh McIntyre (Kilwinning Rangers) Ryan Caddis (Craigmark) and Jamie Conn (Beith) moving elsewhere for some playing action.

He added: “All the guys were happy to sign extended deals with Cumnock beforehand so Branco and I didn’t see why we should have blocked any transfers even though three of them - Conn, McIntyre, and Baird - were joining Premier Division rivals.

“The likes of Pollok and Auchinleck have come out and said they are against loaning their players out to other top-flight teams but we want our guys to be playing at the highest possible standard which just happens to be the Premier Division.

“The experience can only be good for their development and if you think about it, Cumnock’s as well in the grand scheme of things."

Football is a fickle beast and things can change quickly - as McInally knows only too well - however he is nothing short of ebullient when looking ahead to next season.

He added: “I’m enjoying what I’m doing here at Cumnock, working with great people and I feel fortunate to have a playing squad packed with potential at my beck and call whenever we get back to normality.

“And though a lot of people have said I will be judged a success by closing the perceived gap between ourselves and Auchinleck Talbot - I disagree because my sights are set much higher than that.”