Sport

Column: The impact on a sporting life

Mar 22, 2021 08:03 By Dave Hooper
Column: The impact on a sporting life Column: The impact on a sporting life
The Short Corner Column by Dave Hooper
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Dave Hooper looks at he impact of Covid-19 on sports people ahead of a new series on Shannonside radio.

Did you hear the news on the radio today? Well it went like this!

Good evening from the sports desk on this momentous day for Irish sport, a last minute winner saw the Irish soccer team claim a 1-0 World Cup final win over Brazil.

Earlier this morning an all-Irish line-up saw the lions beat South Africa to win the series and for the first time ever 12-Irish men will make up Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

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While Ronnie Delaney, Katie Taylor and Michael Carruth all landed gold medals in the Olympic Games, but we’ll start with GAA news.

Did you ever hear that one? No you didn’t, it was just a joke a non-GAA fan told me many years ago, poking a dig at the national broadcaster.

We’re now 12-months into Covid-19 restrictions, three months have passed since a Gaelic football was kicked during a match (19/12/2020) and a club GAA game hasn’t been played since October fourth of last year.

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Yes six months have passed since a club Gaelic game saw the light of day, which is hard to believe and understandably can start withdrawal symptoms in Gaels across the land.

Yet as many messages arrived into me during lockdown one simply reading; the GAA is not the only sport that’s gone!

It was something we in Shannonside Northern sound wanted to explore and as such we will be starting a new series this weekend “My sporting life during covid” where we will speak to sportspeople and clubs across the region to understand how their sport has been impacted over the last 12-months.

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In life our view of things can be very much tunnelled.

During lockdown two and three soccer and rugby have kept us going, however the impact to these sports is so much deeper than just going behind closed doors.

While CJ Stander wept on Saturday as he said goodbye to the Aviva stadium, Stander was in the minority of rugby players, as clubs from All-Ireland league level down have been unable to take the field.

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Or those soccer players, who watched the TV news to see Longford Town beat Derry City on Saturday night as the league of Ireland returned, yet junior and intermediate soccer has seen their 2020/21 season totally written off.

GAA, rugby and soccer take up so much of our interest that other sports are sometimes left in the shadow, but for them the impact of covid-19 to their sports is looking to be so much worse.

On “My sporting life during covid” series, you will hear from Olympic bound Longford swimmer Darragh Greene, who as an elite athlete is still training day-in day-out at the national aquatic centre in Dublin.

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The immediate impact to his own training was more space pool side. Pre-covid three-to-five lanes would be available to him and his Ireland team mates, the new reality has seen the entire pool available.

No one is allowed share the swimming pool with the Irish team and while Darragh himself admits his training has improved, it’s the impact to his sport that concerns him.

Indoor sports have been devastated by covid-19, if Ireland lacks 50-metre pools, it is very much exempt from outdoor swimming pools, leaving brave swimmers to face the sea.

As Darragh explains in his interview (due to be aired Easter weekend), “a lot of the fun in swimming is meeting people and engaging with them poolside, before and after you train or race”.

Basketball is another sport wiped out by the pandemic, Basketball Ireland’s loud protests falling on deaf ears with the answer to their sport resuming being a firm no even with the weight of the World governing body behind them.

Some sports have fared better, athletics getting a glimpse under the spot light during lockdown three, but only for invited elite athletes such as Carrick-on-Shannon hurdler Ger O’Donnell.

During the day O’Donnell is a regional development officer for Athletics Ireland and explains in his interview how their number one aim for 2021 is to re-entice members back to their clubs.

Athletics is the fourth largest participation sport in the country yet has seen its membership plummet 172% year-on-year.

Other sports such as cycling saw an 84% fall in membership between April 2019 and April 2020. Triathlon Ireland had suffered a similar fall, and reported in some outlets as the worst of all sports.

While athletics can operate on a 12-month calendar, cycling and triathlon work off a shorter window, April to September for triathlon. Two and a half months of 2020 were lost to that sport, year two of the pandemic will not let up for them.

For all the benefits of sport as a competitor or fan, the ruthlessness of Covid-19 will impact its grassroots deeply and dearly.

There will be many who will have found a new pastime or routine and will not return once we exit this horrible pandemic.

Youth sport is another element and I have visions of children across the land more interested in their playstation’s once sport resumes and the impact that will have on sport of the future.

It’s not all about the GAA, but covid-19 doesn’t care about your sporting life!

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