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Sport is not unique, nor too precious and far from immune

Sport has been hit hard by the Covid 19 crisis, but we should remember it's just for fun


Irish Independent Park

Irish Independent Park


Irish Independent Park

Sport is hardly the major concern when it comes to the Covid 19 emergency, but few could argue that the nation's favourite pastimes haven't suffered significantly in the current circumstance. Nothing more than a quick glimpse across what was once the overflowing sports pages is required to see that sport in Ireland and abroad is all, but gone for the foreseeable future.

Fields that were once cut, marked and primed for action now sit eerily quiet as sporting organisations around the world regroup and reflect on what the future holds for their own individual organisations.

North Cork, the same as in areas all over the country, has seen a total shut-down when it comes to sport leaving fans and participants with little to do but wonder when they are likely to get back onto the courts and pitches of the country again.

The GAA is likely to be one of the major casualties during the current shut-down with teams all over the county restricted from not only playing games, but also from training together.

The loss of the latter stages of the national football and hurling leagues was a serious blow to the GAA in several counties both from a financial and a preparatory perspective, but those difficulties will pale into insignificance if the summer's provincial and national competitions fail to take centre stage from May to the end of August.

Aside from the out of pocket issues that the GAA will face, the loss of this time to players, coaches and fans can never be taken for granted and that will be a bitter pill to swallow for many.

2020 was meant to be the start of another decade of sporting memories however when we look to RTÉ in the coming years and check out the Reeling in the Years montage sporting achievements will feature somewhere close to the bottom in comparison for 2020 to what people from all quarters are going through right now.

The GAA, locally and nationally will struggle to deal with the ongoing uncertainty, but it is clear as of now that the leagues will be gone for this year. Decisions on the provincial championships will be made as this crisis continues, but for now all options remain on the table.

The first major casualty for the GAA on a local level will be the club month of April. While few are admitting it right now, there will likely be no club action in April, which will be a big blow to all members of the GAA.

Whether the club season will end up being played at all, only time will tell, but is time gets too tight then perhaps the season will need to go to straight knock-out - just for 12 months - in order to get some action on the fields.

This quick-fire run off may also need to be considered for inter-county action as the powers that be grapple with what is now an unpredicted challenge to association.

Away from the GAA the issues remain the same. Soccer pitches are closed, clubs are not training and players and fans get more frustrated by the day. At the semi-pro level, there are fears for the League of Ireland clubs who are all without gate receipts with most already cutting pay to their players.

The FAI has said it will support the LOI clubs, but for how long and to what extent can an organisation that was already financial Armageddon stump up the cash to save the game at the top level.

Down at soccer's grass roots the issues are different but no less important. Young players are now running the risk of losing out on a season of football and in any kids life that is significant, but having kids cooped up inside rather than out playing games will have knock-on effects as the months and years move on.

Rugby is another code that will feel the pain as the professionals continue to stay clear of their clubs and each other while the amateurs take the same advice - leaving the game behind for the foreseeable future.

Club rugby at all levels will, like all sports, learn to adapt to what is a major challenge, but the likelihood of being able to get competitions such as the 2020 Munster Junior Leagues complete may well be a bridge too far for the powers that be.

Away from the big three sporting organisations there has been a near blanket ban on training and competing with the likes of basketball, tennis, hockey, handball, boxing and horse racing all seeing near total shut-downs.

The exception on that list is of course racing with the sport continuing almost unabated, however meetings are being held behind closed doors, which is a compromise most in the sport believe is acceptable. While at this stage no sport can claim to have escaped restrictions there is one that continues to stay open for its patrons.

Mark Twain once stated that golf is a good walk spoiled, but could the American writer have ever really imagined a time when golf was one of the only sports still available?

Golf, by its nature, is a game that in the main is played by individuals for individuals so with a little bit of care and consideration for those around them, golfers are still able to play casual golf for the weeks ahead.

Golf clubs, have by in large, closed down their clubhouses, cancelled competitions and foregone the need to shake hands and mark each other's cards, but with flags removed and social distancing respected players can continue to strut their stuff on the fairways and greens of Ireland.

Golf is a game that has struggled for many years with dwindling numbers and a demographic that doesn't excite, but perhaps the game will see a resurgence in interest as it remains one of the only sporting activities still available to people forced to stay clear of all the other codes in these strange and challenging times.

Sport is not unique, nor too precious and far from immune to the Covid 19 virus, but where sport is different is that it is where we go to for release. It is the place that people from all walks of life go to relax, the get their minds off the day to day grind - sport is our get-out-of-jail card and when that is taken away we all feel a little more isolated.

No sport on the fields, no sport on the radio, no sport on the TV - perhaps when all this is over we will take time to take stock of what sport really does mean to society - or perhaps we will all just throw ourselves in deeper to our game of choice and appreciate it even more when we once again get our chance to enjoy.