WOODLANDS captain Cieran Garner knows his 2019 double-winning side are still taking flak for choosing not to participate in the Bradford League last season due to Covid, but he says the pressure is now on those sides to do their talking on the pitch.

Some of his team-mates went on loan to other clubs, but for many, like Garner, the Heavy Woollen Cup game at Shelley in April will be their first in over 18 months.

Garner said: “We’re aware a lot has been said about us not participating in 2020, and a few have been speculating that we used the relaying of our outfield last autumn as an excuse, but that has been on our radar for years.

“We’ve been successful, so we know we’re there to be shot at.

“It’s like the old saying goes, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

“We’ll take those comments from others on board, but we feel the pressure is now on the teams chasing us, and whether they can back up what they’ve said and challenge us on the pitch.”

Garner added: “I took the year off last season, as we had our second child in March, though a few of our lads did go out on loan.

“But there’s no change for us (from 2019) personnel-wise going into this season. Why would there be? We were really good in 2019 and everyone is keen to get back.

“For those of us that didn’t play last year, it’s made us realise how much you miss having that full day with the lads on a Saturday.”

Asked whether Woodlands risk being on the back foot for 2021, Garner said: “I wouldn’t say so.

“I wouldn’t say the games last year were pointless, but there was nothing at the end of it really, and the season didn’t finish properly (the showpiece Premier Division League Cup final was cancelled due to coronavirus).

“I looked at the scorecards from games too, and a lot of key individuals didn’t play, even if their teams did.

“Our lads that played elsewhere will have had chance to bat and bowl recently, but for the rest of us, a bit of practice in the nets and it will all come flooding back.”

Garner is glad his side sorted their outfield out before the recent snow, saying it will do wonders for the quality of games there, especially in combination with the square that was laid a couple of years ago.

And he paid tribute to the Oakenshaw club’s former groundsman, David Wharf, who died aged 81 last year.

Wharf was far more than that though, taking on many different roles, including chairman, during an incredible 60 years at Woodlands.

Garner said: “David impacted everyone at the club, and he and his family were, and still are, a massive part of Woodlands.

“When I was here as a junior, he was the groundsman, and you’d see him each weekend, cutting the grass and tending to the wicket. He was part of Woodlands’ DNA.

“It’s unfortunate, with Covid, that the club haven’t been able to give him the send off he deserves, but we’ve got plans in place this summer to have a game in memory of him, just to celebrate his life.”