When John Horan, under guidance from the management committee of the GAA, called a halt to everything last March, little did he think that the country would be still in the same situation seven months later.
There are calls for the GAA to stop playing out the rest of the National League and championship fixtures. For some reason as things were going pear shaped in the last six weeks much of the blame has been pointed at many GAA members. The scenes after clubs have won championship finals and the celebrations that have taken place have been well documented. For some reason many in the country believe if those in Croke Park say we are not to do this or that, then that’s what should happen.
But we know that’s not the way it works. People make up their own minds on what it is they want to do and regardless of the advice of government or indeed Croke Park, they just get on with it. But should that reflect badly on the GAA or indeed any sporting organisation? Should the actions of a small number of people determine what the entire organisation is about?
Like many I have looked forward to Donegal playing again, and what could be better than a home match to Tyrone to get things underway. There has been criticism about the couple of challenge matches that have been played in the last couple of weeks because of the county being placed in Level Three and there are restrictions on travelling out of the county.
However this is elite sport, just like the league of Ireland or the PRO 14 in rugby who are allowed to travel the length and breadth of the country. The players and the backroom team all have to get tested. If there is a positive test then they deal with that, just as the Irish soccer team had to deal with it. Then it’s about following the procedures as they are outlined by health officials.
There are those that would suggest that all sport should be cancelled at this time, that with these games it gives the virus the opportunity to spread. And for the best part it is hard to argue against that point. However, there has to be something to look forward to and sport has always been the ‘out’ for many.
I have no doubt that county managers all around the country have given players the opportunity to step away if they feel they are endangering their health by playing. While it is elite sport but unlike the League of Ireland or the PRO 14, the players are not paid; they do it because of the love of the game and the communities they come from. They represent not only themselves and their families but also their neighbours, both young and old. They also represent those that had to emigrate for work and for some reason or another have not made it home.
There is more to pulling on your club or county jersey than just going to the gym and training three to four times a week; practicing the skills when most are in bed or sitting beside a warm fire or even maybe having a drink.
It’s not about just wearing the gear or the symbols that comes with it, it’s about all that has come before you, how the commitment and sacrifices of those who have played or represented the club or county both on and off the field up until this point has made it all possible.
While supporters of the games may not feel the same about their club, when their county plays it’s a different matter; it gives them something to look forward to. Think of the neighbour or those that have seen plenty of years where they were unable to travel to games, they listened in to the radio.
I have met plenty down through the years who have chosen to listen to games rather than watch them because of the brilliance of the likes of Michael O’Hehir and Micheal O Muircheartaigh; their commentary had the ability to take people from their sitting rooms or kitchens to the front seats in the stadium.
Sunday’s game is an opportunity to bring back some normality. We don’t get to go to it but it will be streamed live; it will be live on radio and if you’re a twitter follower I am sure there will be updates every time something happens.
There has been so much focus on the spread of the virus, people anticipating the numbers every day, every news story is centred around Covid and there has to be something else. Hopefully, sport can give us all an opportunity for a different conversation, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
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