Occasionally in life we encounter people, places or things which impact upon us far more than any of us realise. Or at least it takes a long time for the full effect thereof to fully dawn. What’s coming to mind in this instance – and not for the first time in this space – is Al Paccino’s speech during Any Given Sunday.
Inches. “We’re in hell now, gentlemen, believe me, and we can stay here, get the sh** kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light, one inch at a time”. Normally the preceding iconic lines are trotted out when one is doing a piece relating to Mental Health. Usually my own. In one sense, what follows hereafter will be no different. Apart, that is, from the reality an entire world’s emotional state has been under a sustained attack due to the ongoing scourge which Covid-19 has inflicted upon all and sundry.
Now, anyone who has been on the site or visited our YouTube channel during the past week will have seen that I recently received the first dose of the Covid vaccination in the lovely and thankfully very familiar surroundings of Simonstown Gaels GAA Club in Navan. It was both uplifting and re-assuring to be greeted by well known and long serving Simonstown official Jim Lane.
Then, once in, whether it was down to the HSE or the club, isn’t clear, but, a wonderful system was in place whereby there were six or eight cubicals for the dose being administered and a one way thoroughfare in and out of the big sports hall. Keeping patrons both comfortable and safe. It’s actually hard to know how to react having got the first shot in the arm.
Naturally, there’s a sense of relief at having a defensive wall of sorts mounted against the vile thing. From another sitpoint, though, there exists an element of, maybe not frustration, but, being mindful of, to use a bit of racing parlance, taking a pull, reining it in. A steed that usually pulls like a train early on generally runs out of puff when it matters most.
The only difference in this instance is its a case of taking a pull on one’s expectations. Yes, we’re entering the final few furlongs of a stamina test every bit as grueling as Aintree but a certain former Tainaiste hasn’t started singing yet!
However, the jab lift was as good as anything Joe Canning ever produced. At least now there is hope on the horizon. Mere mention of things like Point-To-Point racing and collective GAA training resuming feels like something from a different galaxy compared to where the entire globe had been basically held captive for the last year.
No secret has been made in this corner of the inclination that at least some of the restrictions were excessive in relation to sport. Horse Racing in particular. Nor is there any hesitation in repeating the belief that it would be much better for the GAA if professionalism was at least considered at inter-county level. For several reasons.
Equality of competition being foremost among them. It is at that point Al’s words ring most true. Take sport out of the equation for a minute. The entire world has been in hell for 12 months. Repeatedly the line has been trotted out that we’re all in this together.
Again, thoughts drift back to the dressing room in the movie: “Either we heal as a team or we crumble, one inch at a time, one play at a time, until there’s nothing left”.
In more ways than one, yours truly has not, by any means, been exemplary in dealing with all which the virus has thrown up. More so in terms of attitude – regularly feeling overcome by feelings of frustration, upset and yes, a little anger. However, and I don’t wish to appear in any way smug here, it would be hoped there would be an acceptance that a decent enough job has been done in getting through it all.
Such has been the case with the majority. Which is why the on-board computer atop these shoulders was cast into such a state of flux once it emerged that some of Dublin’s footballers had been ‘caught’ training in Balgriffin before the permitted April 19th return date.
Being honest, the story about the session left me conflicted. One part of me wondered why somebody could be so petty and vindictive to leak photos to the media. Quick answer – what feels like a never-ending need to be outraged. If its not that it’s the smell of slurry or farmers holding up traffic. There are no sacred cows anymore, literally.
You wonder, though, if it was any other county bar Dublin would there be as much furore about it. Because anybody who believes rival teams aren’t doing a bit must also be expecting a rabbit to poop chocolate at the weekend!
A healthcare worker actually went so far as to say to me yesterday “That (Dublin training story) could and should actually have been used as a positive story. Along the lines of ‘Team returns to socially distant session’.
Unfortunately, the narrative of much of the public commentary by those in positions of influence has been top-dressed with negativity. The second in command within the Government opining that “People can’t be allowed make their own decisions” wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence at a time when the morale of the nation is as low as a pimple on a certain part of a snake’s anatomy. It smacks of something else, but the word currently in mind shall be refrained from as some snowflakes are very easily ruffled, God bless their little hearts.
Mind you, the anger and frustration felt within the GAA community and beyond is wholly understandable too. So many have sacrificed so much to get us to where we are now – with a modicum of hope in plain view – that the recognised and deserving standard setters walking a tightrope is a real kick in the guts for the rest of us. Look, I can totally understand players itching to get out for a kick – in fact there’s a part of me that can’t see much wrong with them having a kick around and greater annoyance would be felt towards whoever the prying snitch was.
However, there’s not much mitigation going in favour of Dessie Farrell’s charges in this case. If it were a situation that there was no mention of a return to play and the hiatus was rumbling on interminably, the covert coaching would actually be quite understandable. With the finish line hopefully in sight though, by breaking rank they are no better than the Covidiots who’ve spent the last year protesting about masks and vaccines and lockdowns or whatever else sated their unending thirst to profess their indignation about everything and everybody. Or, in the case of Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters, trying to maintain a relevance for themselves long after that ship has not only sailed, but sank!
There’s another angle to the story also. Why was it left to the Dublin Co Board to impose censure on their own man? Presuming chiefs in the capital knew about the session – if they didn’t that opens up a whole other can of raw sewage around insurance – are they not complicit in the matter? Should it not have been GAA powers on high delivering comment and sanction? What exactly will the Na Fianna clubman’s 12-week sanction mean or indeed achieve? Answers on a postcard please…
Having said all of he above, though, for the sake of my own mental health, this ramble has to conclude on a positive note. The fields will hopefully soon be alive with the sounds of farm life, animal life and sporting life. Apologies in advance for the impending dust cloud!