Sport

Danny Hughes: A post-Covid lesson awaits the GAA

THANKFULLY, with club football back, fans have a chance to go back to what they know and love.

The threat of Covid-19 directly and indirectly is going to be felt throughout society for some time, at least well into next year.

Not to downplay, or even normalise the problem, but with adequate precautions in place and being followed we can mitigate and ensure that all GAA members do not contribute to rising infection rates and the spread of the virus.

The big problem is the fact that you could be asymptomatic and still spread the virus.

This hasn’t changed since coronavirus first hit Europe and common sense would indicate that this won’t change. Now, it’s about being ultracautious and tracking, tracing and shutting our clubs down when situations dictate such.

To be fair, many of our GAA clubs have acted quickly and decisively in doing so and they must, to protect all those in society, not slacken or start approaching this virus with nonchalance or complacency.

We do need the games, though, at club and county level. It is more important for now to ensure a strong programme of club games as, at this level, it affects many more people.

Not all club players can play inter-county football, but all county players can play club football.

Streaming championship games has to be welcomed internally within counties and, if a small fee is applicable, it is a still worth it to support your county at this difficult time.

Derry has led the way in terms of being proactive in responding to the Covid-19 threat and they should be congratulated on this. I would be surprised if other counties do not follow suit.

What Covid-19 has demonstrated, more than anything else, is that a programme of games for both club and county can be devised in a short period of time.

This is something the Club Players’ Association have stated and something the GAA have been reluctant to engage in for many years now.

Perhaps in a post-Covid world, once the virus threat has been dealt with, this may be the GAA hierarchy’s chance to engage and finally get something that may help allow peace to break out on the perennial county versus club debate.

Where there is a will, there is a way

Road cycling brings new test... and it’s not jolly hockey sticks

IT’S trendy now to be fit. The gym has replaced the pub.

The coffee shop, for the less active, has replaced the pub too.

From what I see, most people, especially the younger generation, are becoming more immersed in obtaining body beautiful. Facebook and Instagram – neither of which I use for this reason – will provide you with endless transformation photographs of ‘befores’ and ‘afters’. We may complain of the lockdown and of putting on weight, but for a lot of us it was an opportunity to change how we train – indeed, for myself, it meant diving into the world of road cycling.

I suppose a lot of people took to the roads, running and walking. Indeed, with the good weather at that time, it was a pleasure to get outdoors. After buying a road bike (second hand, of course, as some of the best bikes are worth more than my car), I go out now with my brother and a true and loyal Newry Shamrocks man, Marty Gorman.

Marty was a tough corner-back and excellent cyclist. A plasterer by trade, I would argue that is the toughest of all the building trades. In football terms, he would have cut you in two during his playing career.

He is around 10 years older than me so we have to put it in context. And he is very competitive, which I enjoy. I never had the pleasure or displeasure of playing against Marty. Newry Shamrocks, during his heyday, were a few divisions above my own club Saval.

The cycling we partake in can be tough. And when you are training for over two-three hours, it can be very taxing.

It is completely different to the type of training I have been used to in the past – that was always geared toward Gaelic football. Cycling is an endurance sport and, as I have been told, it is about getting the miles into the legs.

The bike is enjoyable and perhaps a soft landing place for real competitors like Marty, who misses the cut and thrust of the on-field action. Football has few other equals in that respect.

You will never replace the edge and anxiety and competitive urge that comes from playing a game, whether that is within the confines of an actual training session or in a match. It is war without shooting. Again, for some, managing and coaching is also that soft landing place.

The enjoyment and craic of the changing room can leave many players who quit the game feeling very down, isolated and detached.

I suppose in coaching and managing, you still get some of the banter of a changing room, a healthy splattering of slagging that comes via involvement and, ultimately, in seeking performance from a group of people towards winning.

In terms of cycling, it is much more social than you think.

You do have times on the road when you can chat among yourselves, so again this has been a big positive for me. At other times, you can’t talk, even if you wanted to, especially when tackling the much dreaded road out of Hilltown and heading to Spelga Dam. But it is not about the winning and losing now.

It is more time-based and at times, it’s about sticking alongside your riding partners. I have always counted myself lucky in terms of where I live, especially now having the mountains of Mourne and Irish Sea routes to navigate. Of course, you have to deal with the road rage too.

We have been close to getting clipped a few times and, not long ago, some individual decided to go to the boot of his car and take a hockey stick to me.

He didn’t look like a player, by the way. We had conversed in profanities prior to him brandishing his version of an assault weapon, and while I don’t think he would have used it had he got within striking distance, I had my helmet off and was preparing to use it as my shield.

My pacifist brother ensured it never came to anything more serious by intervening with this aggressive mad man. But it goes to show you that if you think by taking up cycling when stepping away from the football field that you leave those levels of aggression behind you, perhaps you should think

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