Sport

Danny Hughes: Modern world leaves us with some uncomfortable truths

Many players are likely to have used lockdown to re-evaluate personal goals

Initial positivity towards the GAA’s return-to-play roadmap made way for some over-the-top criticism and accusations of negligence aimed at the Association.

We may not want to accept the fact that this pandemic is going to be here for some time.

Taking a commonsense approach, in wearing PPE and shielding the old and vulnerable, will not, or should not, change.

From a GAA perspective, do we need to hold each other’s hands through these stages? Or should we take a sensible and adult approach and participate only if it is safe to do so.

READ MORE: Now's the time to try 32-county championship: Declan Bonner

As a society and Association, we have done extremely well since the lockdown started. However, the longer it goes on, the longer we put off the inevitable – we just cannot afford to let society become locked away indefinitely.

The medical experts and scientists may or may not find a vaccine. That is an uncomfortable truth, so we have to deal with this.

Car accidents kill many people annually, yet we continue to speed and drive cars.

So, we have to adapt for the time being, until a vaccine is available and society is safe to return to normal.

If one person dies of Covid-19, possibly infected by a player, does that mean that the Association will be at fault, or the player?

These are just some of the questions that we will face.

We need to have some perspective going forward and realise that there are no certainties – just uncomfortable truths.

In some county and club panels, there will have been players who have enjoyed the lockdown.

No pressure of having to be somewhere at a certain time. No pressure of being dictated to and told what they can and can’t do. That will have given some a new sense of freedom.

Perhaps the ability to meet friends during the whole crisis will have given some a chance to reconnect.

My fear is that some players will decide to retire early or simply walk away from football and/or hurling.

I am trying to think of a time during my career when I felt crushed and hopeless in terms of competing for the top prizes. And I can’t recall feeling hopeless in a sporting sense, not from a ‘goal-setting’ perspective anyway.

Now some of this may have been youth or naivety, or both. I’m not exactly sure. But, in this current climate, I am trying to put myself in the shoes of an inter-county player.

The strong counties have become stronger but the weak have not become weaker. Moreso, other factors have come into play – such as year-on-year funding – that has helped to drive the stronger counties to secure better conditioning and support.

The ability to attract more sponsorship and generate more revenue – that tends to happen to those counties competing for the top prize year on year – is something that the likes of Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone, Donegal and Mayo do not have to concern themselves with most years relative to most other counties.

The ability of such counties to keep coming to the well year after year breeds a success from which young lads and ladies want to play for their county on the big stage.

For many teams in the lower tiers of the National League, the absence of ‘hope’ or that ability to reduce the gap on the top teams could lead to an uncomfortable truth – it just isn’t going to get any better.

OF course, there is a flip side in that the time away from competitive action may well reinvigorate some counties and players. The prolonged rest may have recharged batteries and provided some with a mental ‘shower’. I hope that this is the case.

I know in my own case, I found the commuting associated with my job a significant burden. The managing of my time to prioritise work, family, social time and leisure time was a challenge. I am not sure I want to go back to that.

I am sure this may be the case for one or two players. The uncomfortable truth is that it took a pandemic to affect a change in society and in how we participate in and approach sport.

I find myself at odds with the over-cautious now, I think we need to adapt and survive. I am also prone to contradicting myself so don’t take me too seriously.

Hopefully, though, the re-emergence of players onto the pitches will bring a sense of joy to parishes. You can turn that into a negative if you want, but personally I see the return of activity as a massive boost to society.

Commonsense is the key. If we have that we should be OK.

Facing uncomfortable truths is something that we, as humans, have difficulty accepting.

It seems that the world is fighting itself at present. Lockdown, racism, global-warming, Brexit... the list is endless.

Our very physical health is being threatened with an unseen virus and the pressures of modern life have accelerated the mental health of nations to crisis points.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the world’s equilibrium is completely off-kilter.

The fact is that we have tolerated far too much for far too long.

It is said that rioting is the voice of the unheard and let’s face it, as a society in the north of Ireland, we have a sense of what injustice looks like.

Thankfully, things have moved on in the North, but the undercurrent and foundations of prejudice and bigotry still exist and these conflicts will divide societies for generations unfortunately.

Spike Lee, the iconic black film director, put it best on BBC’s Newsnight last week when asked how the Black Lives Matter movement is affecting American society.

Lee, who has benefited hugely in monetary terms and very much lived the ‘American Dream’, rightly spoke of the USA’s foundations.

He spoke of the lands being stolen from the native Americans and then, after that, slave owners importing those from the African continent to build and feed the Americans.

Lee rightly alluded to the fact when the very foundations of any society are built on such immoral and shaky footings, is it totally unsurprising when prejudice and racism exist?

John Mitchel, a statue of whom proudly stands in Newry, was an artist and Young Irelander. An Irish Nationalist, there have been GAA clubs named in recognition of him, recognising the struggle he undertook to defend Catholics and stamp out inequality.

Astonishingly, Mitchel would also become a leading Confederate supporter and voice in the United States, fighting to retain slavery, with the ultimate sacrifice being that his two sons were killed during the Civil War on the Confederate side.

This complete contradiction in Mitchel’s is hard to reconcile. How can someone fight for religious equality on one side and then seek to support slavery and inequality on the grounds of the colour of their skin?

What has this got to do with the GAA, you may ask?

Well, not a lot really, but in the absence of on-field action, I think we must face some uncomfortable truths related to the past, present or future.

In the past, the GAA as a body has dealt with verbal racism poorly. This lowest form of gamesmanship reared its head in recent Ulster club championship games and the absence of long-term suspensions from it was hardly considered as supportive to the victims.

Whether it is racism, homophobia or otherwise, at discipline level we have said the right things, but failed the test when put to us.

An uncomfortable truth perhaps.

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