BRIGHTER DAYS Republic of Ireland fans Rebecca Lynch, left, from Ballaghaderreen and Pauline Madden from Ballyhaunis are pictured in Tbilisi, Georgia last October before the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier against Georgia. Pic: Sportsfile
I HAVEN’T spent this much time indoors since the 2002 World Cup.
For those who don’t remember, that particular feast of football took place in South Korea and Japan, meaning that most days involved three games played in the morning (Irish time).
Having just returned from a year studying in the Netherlands, I delayed my summer job in The Mayo News long enough that I could take it all in. For a solid month, that was my morning routine: watching games at 7.30am, 10am and 12.30pm, and grabbing breakfast at some point in between while pondering what had happened with Roy Keane in Saipan.
The final fixture of the day finished just in time for me to catch Murder, She Wrote, which I also viewed religiously for a month (hey, don’t judge me). And by the time Jessica Fletcher had solved another crime in Cabot Cove, it was time to consider the all-important question: who was playing the following day?
Then – and only then – would I consider going outdoors.
There was a time when the cancellation of a major football tournament would have seemed like the end of the world to me.
But Uefa’s announcement last Tuesday that Euro 2020 would be delayed for a year seemed like merely bowing to reality (unlike the idea, reportedly still under consideration, that the competition will still be known as Euro 2020).
By contrast, the initial insistence by the Japanese authorities that the Olympic Games would take place as planned brought back memories of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, AKA ‘Comical Ali’, Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, whose defiant pronouncements bore increasingly little resemblance to reality.
The National Football and Hurling Leagues will almost certainly not be resurrected, and there must be serious doubts about whether the GAA championships can proceed in the summer.
Sports fans find ourselves in an odd situation. The mounting death toll inflicted by the coronavirus does, in the old cliché, bring everything into perspective about how little our abiding passion matters. And yet, the absence of live sport leaves a gaping hole in many lives.
Quite a few people must be tempted to spend our downtime watching sports documentaries like Boys From Brazil, An Impossible Job, Once In A Lifetime and Hoop Dreams (all available on YouTube, according to last Friday’s Second Captains podcast).
On the big picture, I am, I acknowledge, one of the lucky ones.
First and foremost, I and my friends and family are, to the best of my knowledge, still all healthy at the time of writing (Sunday lunchtime). As a PhD student in Dublin City University, I’m both able to work from home and am still getting paid. I have an en-suite bathroom with hot water for hand-washing, plus a kitchen-cum-living-room that’s big enough to have conversations at a safe distance with my two housemates.
With schools and universities closed, my bedroom in an on-campus apartment has become my office. I’ve conducted 29 interviews for my PhD, which looks at the working lives of former journalists and editors, and there’s nothing like enforced isolation to make you productive. I haven’t written this much since I sat the 1999 Leaving Cert history exam.
The fact that most undergraduate students have gone home since the shutdown means that engaging in social distancing in the campus shop is straightforward. Having spent two and a half years thoroughly ignoring Albert College Park, a mere long puck from my front door, it’s nice to have an open space to spend a half-hour outdoors, though it may only be a matter of time before the parks are closed.
And having finished my literature review (for now), I’m finally reading for pleasure again. The current book I’m tackling is called A Thousand Days, Arthur M Schlesinger’s history of John F Kennedy’s presidency. Hopefully that title isn’t an omen for what lies ahead.