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Checkpoints and checklists

Sport

CHECKING IN Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor signs in with Patrick Feeley of the Connacht GAA Council before Sunday’s match in Carrick-on-Shannon. Pic: Sportsfile

On The Road

Ger Flanagan

A VERY small cavalcade headed for Carrick-on-Shannon in atrocious weather conditions last Sunday morning. The only real indication that it was a Mayo crowd were the many sponsored cars on route.
Spare a thought for the Gardaí manning the two checkpoints we passed in Frenchpark and then Carrick-on-Shannon itself enquiring about the purpose of our journey.
A flash of the press pass and we were on our way, no more questions asked.
It was almost easier than getting into Páirc Sean MacDiarmada. The stewards were running an extremely tight ship.
Entry to the pitch was via a strict guest list and the astute stewards made sure to ask if you were displaying or feeling any Covid-19 symptoms too before they granted you entry. Face masks were to be worn at all times, even with us newspaper journalists sitting outside in the stand.
The virus has hit the country hard and we were greeted with a dead bird on the steps up to the press box. We were unsure whether it was Covid-related or not.
A steward or PRO was never too far away, reminding us of the importance of social distancing.
Everyone knows us journalists love a good huddle for some gossiping and ‘soft talk’, but unfortunately that can no longer cut it.
Spectator-less games are beginning to feel a bit more normal too and it’s fascinating to listen to the players and sideline converse with the players on the field.
Another feature of last Sunday’s game in Carrick was that the perimeter fencing allowed some opportunistic and enterprising supporters get a glimpse of the game from outside the ground.
And from where we were sitting, their view of the game wasn’t all that bad either!
An interesting observation was made by one local journalist during half-time regarding sideline instructions; he pointed out that, contrary to what many of us might have presumed about them being of a sophisticated and very technical nature, they are actually along much more basic lines.
Gaelic football is a very simple game, even at inter-county level, we’re discovering these days.
James Horan was much more animated last Sunday than he had been in the two previous National League games. That is probably understandable given how frustrating it must have been for him to watch given the atrocious conditions and heavy pitch, which made the optics of the game less than ideal from a Mayo perspective.
After the matches these days, interviews with the managers are held in the stand, outside in the fresh (very fresh) open air as reporters ask their questions from a two-metre distance while leaving their recorders on a desk that has been assembled for the occasion.
Asking those questions from behind face masks can be difficult too, but there’s an element of being ‘in disguise’ about the whole thing too.
Sometimes nobody is too sure who is asking what question or where it’s coming from!
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the new reality of covering Mayo games in the 2020 GAA championship is the traffic, or the lack of.
Once the final whistle goes, and the day’s work is wrapped up, it’s a simple case of jumping in the car and heading straight for home without worry of being held up.
Which is ideal when you’re rushing to watch the Man United game.
Well, at least Mayo won. . .

 

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