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Covid hangover is a concern

Sport

THE NEW NORMALMayo’s Lee Keegan runs past a Covid-19 test centre station in MacHale Park before last October’s National League match against Tyrone. Pic: Sportsfile


The way I see it
Ger Flanagan

I CAN only imagine the panic and uncertainty among the Mayo camp recently when they were first alerted to a potential Covid-19 issue only days out from a Connacht semi-final.
Whatever your opinion on the virus is, it’s absolutely no joke when it gets into a group of people given how quickly it can spread.
We had an issue in our club squad in Balla a couple of months back where there was a positive Covid case and everyone was required to get tested as a precaution. Thankfully, nobody else in the group subsequently tested positive, but having to go through the whole process of getting tested and waiting anxiously for the text to come through to confirm you either do or don’t have Covid, isn’t any fun.
Your mind is racing as you think about what could potentially happen and what impact it might have on your plans and routines, not to mind your health.
I know there have been a number of other sporting clubs around Mayo in recent times that have gone through the same process, and it can represent a big pothole on the road to progress for a team’s season.
So the situation the Mayo seniors found themselves in last week, I’d imagine, was nothing short of having the world turned upside down for the management team for a few days.
Reading in last week’s Mayo News that the Leitrim game only got the go-ahead a couple of hours before throw-in underlines how hard Mayo’s preparation must have been, but as luck would have it the opposition on the day was dreadful.
But last week was when Mayo will really feel the losses of those in isolation.
Depending on what you read or hear, there could be anything from four players to ten players in the squad impacted, but that hasn’t been confirmed from the Mayo camp.
For those who tested positive, those players have to self-isolate for ten days according to the HSE guidelines. That means that some of them may only have been available to train and rejoin the group again last Sunday at best.
With Mayo stepping up preparations for Galway, they more than likely played an ‘A’ versus ‘B’ match on Sunday.
Being deemed a ‘close contact’ of somebody who tested positive for Covid is even more of a logistical nightmare, and inter-county players aren’t allowed to return to training for potentially up to 14 days, or until they get ‘medical assessment and clearance to return’.
Being deemed a ‘casual contact’ by public health authorities is much simpler and players are allowed to return to training and the group immediately unless they feel symptoms.
Speaking as someone who had the virus last year, it’s not ideal for training or exercise.
Of course it can also be asymptomatic, but when I contracted it back in November, I was hit pretty hard with fatigue. I received my text that confirmed the positive test on a Friday and while the effects didn’t kick in initially, by Monday morning I was totally shot with fatigue.
Getting up in the morning was a slog and come 8pm or 9pm in the evening, bed was calling. Generally, I wouldn’t go to bed until after 11pm, but that just wasn’t possible with the virus.
Come the following Friday, I thought I was feeling a bit brighter and attempted a bit of a home gym session, but pulled the plug on that after about ten minutes.
The energy just wasn’t in the tank.
And did I mention losing my senses of taste and smell?
Those pleasures are only truly appreciated when they’re taken away unknowingly, and eating and drinking becomes a chore, so it’s increasingly difficult to get the required calories in.
So if the virus impacts any of the Mayo players like yours truly, they will experience a week of low energy levels, combined with poor sleep and a drop in calorie intake.
That’s a dangerous combination coming into championship week, where your team-mates will be deloading and you’re coming in flat.
Of course you can find a silver lining in even the darkest of clouds and in many ways this was it for Mayo last week as the Covid story eclipsed the premiere of the highly-anticipated sequel —  ‘The Trials and Tribulations of the Mayo GAA Kitvan: The Phantom Menace’.
What an absolute embarrassment.

Connacht final in Croker a good call
PLAYING this year’s Connacht Final in Croke Park isn’t a bad thing in my opinion and it certainly doesn’t warrant all the bad press it got during the week.
There seemed to be a lot of outrage, and even the odd outcry to boycott the Connacht Final because the ‘suits’ in Croke Park and Bekan are only concerned about the euro signs.
God forbid that 1,750 Mayo fans will not be able to get to MacHale Park now. That’s almost as many free tickets that were available and went unsold for the Leitrim game!
Maybe that was a boycott before the boycott?
Yes, a trip to Croke Park involves a longer journey, more expense, and logistically is difficult for families, but Mayo supporters have loved and yearned for this experience for years.
The only downfall I see to it is that some elderly people who may have attended MacHale Park might not be able to get to Croke Park.
That’s a real shame and would be my only bone of contention.
This whole narrative of ‘business’ being taken away from Castlebar etc etc just doesn’t cut it with me. Castlebar could only hold 3,500 supporters for the game anyway, half of whom would be from Galway.
There’s probably 1,500+ kids in that number too that won’t be spending money, so then maybe 50% of the people might put their hand in their pocket for a cup of coffee.
There’s little to no hospitality open, the sector of the economy that feels the most benefit of hosting  a Connacht final, so that argument doesn’t add up on my calculator.
There will be less than 9,000 making the commute from Mayo to the match and the footfall will still be there in the various towns gathering wherever they can to watch the match and enjoy the day.
And let’s not forget, if Mayo win the Connacht Final in Castlebar, controlling the crowd numbers that will gather becomes a serious problem for authorities and therein lies a huge danger in terms of spreading Covid.
18,000 supporters in Croke Park isn’t going to make the heavens open up and rain cash down on Connacht GAA either.
And there’s the small matter of the football itself.
Croke Park suits Mayo. Mayo suits Croke Park.
If they get through it with a win, it’s an extra run out in HQ before an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
For me, it’s a no-brainer.

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