Galbally's return to senior football placed on hold
A FEW short weeks ago Galbally’s sprawling complex was buzzing with activity, excitement, and anticipation as the club made ready for a return to senior football.
A Tyrone League and Championship double and an appearance in the Ulster Club IFC final last year confirmed the expectation that an emerging group of talented youngsters would blossom as one.
The Pearse's were ready. The players were united by a bond and an inner belief that they could dine at the top table in one of gaelic football’s most fiercely competitive places.
First they were due to make the short trip to Carrickmore for the Division One opener, and then Pearse Park was to witness the return of top flight football with the visit of Derrylaughan.
But the gates are padlocked, a deathly silence has descended upon a sporting facility a social hub, the beating heart of a tightly knit community.
John Moylan was persuaded to extend his term as senior team manager after presiding over last season’s success.
However, victories on the football field seem a long way off as the battle continues to beat the silent killer that is Covid-19.
“We were ready to go, and we were looking forward to getting started,” said Moylan.
“It’s very disappointing. You want to be out playing football, it’s what we do and we love doing it.They’re young lads, they love football.
“Last year was a great year, training was very enjoyable, lads loved coming to training.
“They were raring to go, and we were looking forward to measuring ourselves against the best teams.
“We wanted to see if we were really set up for Division One, to go up and compete with the top teams, it would have been a great measuring stick.”
A pre-season training programme was gathering pace when the GAA announced a halt to all activities on March 12 in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
“We had a long year and we didn’t start back straight away. We gave them six weeks off and we got back doing a bit of gym work to start with.
“We had just got on to the pitches in February, as much as we could, for the bad weather was holding us up a bit,” said the Cork native.
With the League already a major casualty of an unprecedented health emergency, a Senior Championship clash with holders Trillick is also shrouded in uncertainty.
Like all other sports worldwide, the GAA’s calendar will have to be torn up and redrawn in an unrecognisable shape at some point during an eventual return to normality.
“No-one has an idea what’s coming down the line. But the thing about it is that everybody is in the same boat.
“We can’t say that we weren’t ready, or Trillick can’t say that they weren’t ready, we’re all in exactly the same position.
“Whenever it does happen, and if it does, and please God it does, we’ll go out and we’ll take it on, and we’ll all have the same preparation as everyone else.”
Galbally and Tyrone star Liam Rafferty has been impacted on two fronts, his promising inter-county career placed on hold alongside his stalled involvement with the club.
Rafferty has been one of the stand-out Red Hand performers this season, starring in a National Football League campaign that remains unfinished, with five of the seven rounds played.
“Liam had found fantastic form. I would say in the National League so far, he has been one of Tyrone’s star players this year,” said Moylan.
“I was really looking forward to seeing what he could produce in the Galbally jersey. But no doubt he’ll get his chance yet.”
But football is unimportant at this time of grave crisis, and the people of Galbally have responded to the leadership shown by the GAA and to the needs of the community.
“When we’re going through a crisis like this, football is put into perspective, and you find it’s not the be-all and end-all.
“You find out what the GAA is all about. The GAA has been a leader down through the years, and it was one of the first organisations to stand up and to take directive from government and maybe even go ahead of them.”
And the Pearses club is at the centre of a huge community effort to provide all the help and support its people require.
“The Galbally club here has been terrific in what they have put in place for people, in termsof helping people out,” Moylan added.
“The Galbally club committee have been excellent in terms of their communication, in terms of looking after the vulnerable in the community, providing food, providing services, providing coal for people.
“But everyone plays their part by adhering to the guidelines by social distancing, by providing skills for children to do.
“Videos have been put up by players day in and day out encouraging them to do the right thing.
“The senior footballers are raising money to give to the NHS, and things like that keep people’s heads in the right space.
“The joint captains Sean Murphy and Enda McGarrity have followed suit with me in advising everyone to do the right thing, in social distancing, to not leave the house if they don’t have to, and if they have to, to stay two metres apart.
“I think Galbally people are doing that, the place is very, very quiet. When something like this happens, the Galbally people won’t be found wanting.”