FIT FOR LIFE John and Rita Casey are pictured at their home in Charlestown.
The well-known Charlestown family have been keeping themselves busy
LIFE before Covid in the Casey household revolved around sport.
Parents John and Rita were ‘on the go full-time’ bringing daughters Ava (13), Kayleigh (10) and Jenna (7) to training for Gaelic football, basketball and athletics, plus games, along with swimming lessons and hip-hop classes.
It was seven days a week, a non-stop whirlwind of coming and going from Charlestown.
Then everything stopped last March, before things kicked off again after the first lockdown was lifted. That brought a return to some sort of normality.
However, as John Casey admits, the last 14 weeks have been ‘a bit of a disaster’ as the country went into a Level 5 lockdown again, schools closed, and organised sport shut down.
“Rita’s working, I’m working, the three girls were at home, and it became a nightmare very quickly,” the former Mayo footballer told The Mayo News. “Last year the kids had such great enthusiasm for homeschooling in the first few weeks, but the novelty wore off very quickly.
“Before lockdown, often, Rita and I had to be in two different places at the same time between all the different sports the kids were playing,” he added.
“Whichever match was the ‘most important’ I used to go to, just in case the referee needed a bit of encouragement,” he laughed. “It was at tough at times to manage everything, but we’d open it back with open arms now.”
The Casey girls didn’t take their love of sport ‘from the wind’.
Rita is an avid runner and a familiar face on the road-running circuit around East Mayo. She also ran the Dublin City Marathon back in 2018 and would think nothing of clocking up 100 miles during a normal week before lockdown.
The last few months have reminded her just important sport is in her children’s lives, but also how much they have missed just meeting and mixing with their friends.
“You’d have to worry about their social skills, I think the kids have missed out on so much, socially,” said Rita.
“John and I wouldn’t be great on letting the kids have access to too much technology, but we have seen that having their phones or their iPads means at least they have been able to have some kind of communication with other kids.
“Jenna is only seven, so she’s too young for all of that and has missed out on it. So she hasn’t had any interaction with her friends. She’s also missed out on learning the basic skills and the early stages of Gaelic football, athletics and swimming over the last year.
“John would bring the girls out for a kick-around to work on their skills, and I’d bring Ava out for a few 5k runs. But there was no schedule of activities as such because homeschooling had to be the priority for us during the week, especially with us both working.”
But despite his busy schedule in the family hardware business, John Casey still makes time to train seven days a week. His regime has been paying off too.
“I’ve never been in better shape,” he admits.
“We have a gym at home, and if I don’t get a session on the bike, on the treadmill or in the gym, I’ll be like a ‘cut cat’. I’d be cranky. It’s hugely important for my mindset.
“Rita and I went for a 5km run this morning; I got back into running on the back of Colm Horkan’s Memorial Run in February. My legs are in pure agony when I run, from old football injuries, but the 5k walk I was going to do that day turned into a trot, and we ended up doing around 8k. And now I’ve started running a few times a week.”
The Casey family dog, Cooper, also joins them on their regular runs around Charlestown.
And all going well, he will see a lot more coming and going from April 26 onwards.
“I can’t wait for the end of April, to get the kids back to athletics on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and back to Gaelic training again with their friends,” said Rita.
“Our old weekly schedule of training and matches has been wiped off the fridge! So it’s been a completely different household, but I look forward to getting back into it again for the kids’ sake.”