In her five years as a Kerry senior footballer, this is definitely the strangest one that Aishling O'Connell has put down. The 23-year-old Cordal native has witnessed the football season grind to a halt, and she has also seen herself thrust into the front-line in her work as a garda, as Ireland battles to control the Covid-19 pandemic. O'Connell was enjoying her best ever season in a Kerry jersey prior to the lock-down, and although things have changed dramatically on the sporting front, the rampaging centre half back is performing a much more important role in her work base in Bandon, Cork.
"The only thing that's stayed the same really is the fact that I'm still working," she told The Kerryman this week. "It's more community based at the moment, just trying to make sure that everyone is staying safe and following the guidelines from the HSE, and we are doing a lot of check-points as you can imagine. I suppose all in all ninety-five percent of the people are genuine enough, genuine travels and stuff, so I suppose in one way it's a good way to meet the community, although maybe not in the normal circumstances.
"We check a lot on the vulnerable because there's a lot of people cocooning, there's a lot of people living at home and we've been calling to them, getting their prescriptions for them. All the little things, even visiting people makes a difference.
"It's a lonely time for a lot of people, they mightn't have visitors and their social scene might be going into town or something and they can't do that, so I suppose even by us calling and dropping off messages and stuff it brightens up their day a little bit.
"The amount of compliments that you'd get at check-points from people that are genuinely happy to see you like. You could see someone that might be working for Bus Eireann or something and you'd try to wave them on, but they'd stop just to have a chat, people are genuinely happy to see us."
A place in the Gardaí was always an ambition of O'Connell's, so when the chance came along to join the force she grabbed it with both hands.
"I did Product Design in UL for a year and I applied for the Guards in January of my first year in college. I started that September in Templemore. I always knew that I wanted to be a guard, I just said I'd apply so that I could play a bit of college football, and I had to wait for my Leaving Cert results to apply, so I did then. I was going to defer it for a year first, but I knew in my heart that all I wanted to do was to be a guard. I'm three years in it already, and I love it!"
Aishling is currently commuting from her home in Cordal to her work base in Bandon. It works out better for her that way in the present circumstances. The open spaces of the family farm appeal to her as well, and in the evenings she can do her bit of training, with just the cattle and her couple of horses to keep her company. Far away from the bubble and bustle of living in the city.
LGFA guidelines have ensured that collective training is not possible, but the Kerry ladies management have online training sessions with the panel, and although O'Connell says they are excellent, she misses the competitive nature of a full session.
"Cassandra Buckley, our S&C coach, is doing a lot of work with us on Facebook live where we log in and do it with her. We have a lot of runs to do as well and we get it done no bother, but it's hard to get it done yourself. You'd miss going into training and having the craic with the girls, but mostly I'd miss the competitiveness of the football field, you just don't have that anywhere else.
"We're doing time trials for a few things, like 1.2 km runs, so I'm trying to get my competitiveness out there, but then at the same time it's a hard thing to do, to train by yourself. I'd do beep tests myself as well to try and compare my fitness from the start of the year, that's all you can do really by yourself. Even at that it's hard to push yourself," she says.
When O'Connell was initially stationed in Bandon with the Gardaí, she knew that commutes to her home club of Scartaglin would be difficult to manage. She had the long unsociable working hours to contend with, and it made much more sense to throw her lot in with a Cork club.
Living in Ovens, the obvious choice was to sign for the local club Éire Óg, and she has found that playing in the ultra competitive Cork County league has improved her as a player.
"I think the fact that there's a lot more clubs in Cork meant that we played a lot more challenge games. The main thing that I found different was that I was marking a lot of different players in comparison to going to Kerry training where you'd be marking the same girls every night, and then when you play club football you end up marking the Kerry player once more. With Éire Óg I was marking Noelle Healy (Dublin ladies All Star) last year, Ger O'Sullivan, Aine Terry, all of the west Cork girls, and I think that stood to me a lot because I was facing a good range of players outside of the county set up," O'Connell said.
"It was definitely a confidence booster, even marking Emer Scally at Éire Óg training was a different challenge. We have John Cleary and Tom Scally training us and they coached the Cork minors to four All-Irelands in a row so I'm getting great knowledge from them as well in fairness.
"You'd miss playing with your own club though, you'd miss going to see the girls and playing in the Kerry County Championship so hopefully playing in Cork is a short term thing for me. I only transferred to Eire Og to reduce travel, so I'll be looking forward to getting back with Scart in the next year or two anyway, once it falls into line with work and stuff."
With the LGFA cancelling the remainder of the National Football league, it is still unclear as to whether the Championship will take place this season. The Ladies Association issued a statement during the week that they would "consult with county team captains, managers, referees, club and county executives, through surveys, to gather their views as we work through our current circumstances. The TG4 All-Ireland Championship will not take place in the format and time-line as planned - and further clarification will be issued on this shortly".
It's the not knowing that Kerry vice-captain O'Connell finds tough. She will deal with anything that comes her way, but she also accepts that the rug could be pulled from under the championship as quickly as it was with the league. The cancellation of the league was a bitter pill to swallow. Kerry had reached the final with two games still left to play, but instead of getting a chance to win silverware, they will have to do it all over again next season. That will mean three trips to Ulster (Tyrone, Armagh, and Monaghan), with typical northern hospitality certain to make things extremely difficult.
They will deal with that when the time comes. In the meantime, Kerry must prepare for the championship with the attitude that it will go ahead, and O'Connell says that the aim is to ensure that their fitness levels are at the standard required to make an impact.
"We are still kind of waiting instructions, we are kind of stuck in limbo," she said. "If it is knock-out, I just hope that we get a good few weeks training before it. Knock-out would be great for spectators, maybe not so much for us, but it's a one-off thing like, so hopefully it's not going to come around again in a few years time or anything. We are doing the work. Our plan is that if we do get back that we'll have the fitness and all we will have to work on is the football.
"Ball work at the moment is just kicking against the wall, it's not the same obviously!"