ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT The scene at Páirc Seán MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon last Sunday, when Mayo should have been playing Leitrim in the 2020 Connacht SFC quarter-final. Pic: Sportsfile
Billy Joe Padden
IN a time before Coronavirus hit these shores, last Sunday was pencilled in for the start of Mayo’s 2020 Connacht championship adventure. Instead we found ourselves wondering if we’ll see any GAA game at some stage in the next six or seven months.
The one thing that jumped out for me from the GAA’s statement about that issue last week was that if there are going to be no inter-county games until at least October — and that’s the position as things stand in early May — then in all likelihood there aren’t going to be any inter-county games this year.
For me, the statement gave us a glimpse into the sort of things that GAA officials in Croke Park have to consider — like the Player Injury Scheme, which will come under scrutiny if players go back into action this year with the threat of being infected by Covid-19 hanging over them.
In the weeks and months ahead, if things progress as quickly as the scientists, the Government and we all hope they do, then there may be some discussion around club games happening later on in the year.
But I don’t know what sort of an appetite there would be for inter-county football and hurling in November and December, between the bad weather, the struggle to get pitches, people travelling all over the country, and all the housekeeping things that you have to factor in for modern inter-county games.
To be honest, I wouldn’t object at this stage if the GAA came out and were more definite and said, ‘This is not going to happen this year.’
I think that would be easier in some ways, especially for club players, to deal with.
I’ve been thinking recently how I’d feel if I were still playing with Belmullet at the moment.
While I’m at it, I’d like to congratulate Belmullet GAA club on doing a 24-hour kickathon last weekend to raise money for Pieta House, a charity and organisation that do so much to help people all over the country.
Events like that can help lads to get together and do something for a common purpose, just like they do during a normal season, so it was nice for them to get a chance to come together — from a distance — again.
If I was still playing club football with them, I think I’d like to get involved in club activities, like fundraisers or online quizzes, as much as possible, just to keep in contact with my friends and team-mates.
From a player’s point of view, you just have to compartmentalise what’s happening at the moment; take the pressure off playing and competing, and trying to be in peak physical condition, and just do it for yourself.
Stay fit because it’s good for your physical and mental health; and it’ll be good for you when you get back to playing football.
As for the inter-county players at the moment, I’ve always said that it’s become a bit of a rat race at that level over the last few years. You’re always wondering what the lad next to you is doing, or if he’s doing more than you, and you’re wondering what the lads in Dublin or Galway or Kerry are doing too. You don’t want to lose a step on them.
Now though, it’s vital that county players take a step back.
There’s nothing to be gained by going out now and trying to break records, because most lads at that level only need about six weeks to get back up to top speed again.
So all they have to do is keep themselves around 60% to 70% fit for the moment or else they risk burning themselves out.
The key is to have a plan and stick to it.
Who knew we’d miss live sport so much
LIFE hasn’t changed much in the Padden household in Newry since my latest update.
I know I’m very lucky that all of us in the family are healthy, and that I’m still fortunate to be working, and I’m kept busy and distracted by trying to keep tabs on two children.
But the thing I’m still missing most at the moment is live sport of any kind: a Mayo game, a club game, watching Liverpool, any soccer game or a baseball game. Anything at all!
I miss that sense of not knowing what’s going to happen, not knowing whether somebody at any moment is going to do something spectacular, stupid or entertaining!
The ebb and flow of a game that you follow, waiting for something to happen.
I don’t have much of an appetite to go back watching old games, although I did go back and watch the 1993 All-Ireland Final between Derry and Cork on You Tube last week.
But me tuning into the Sunday Game last weekend to watch analysis of Mayo’s 2017 All-Ireland Final defeat to Dublin was never going to happen.
I find reading helps to calm the mind and I genuinely think that trying not to worry too much about is sound advice too. We’re all going to get over this, people have to deal with tough things all the time, and we should be grateful for our families, the GAA community, while at the same time having empathy and sympathy for people everywhere who have lost loved ones to this disease.
For the moment all we can do is stay safe, mind each other, and be sure to make an effort to keep in touch with people who might appreciate a phone call and hearing a familiar voice at a time that can be very lonely for many people who are living on their own or in isolation.