The Spirit of Meitheal

Word finally came down the line that all collective training at county and club level was prohibited until at least 29th March.

A good decision by the GAA.

Carlow were due to travel to London for the last round of the NFL campaign. The result was of no consequence to the divisional outcome. We were anxious that it not go ahead at this time. We viewed it as unnecessary travel that put people at risk – elderly relatives, players with new born babies, individuals in the ‘at risk’ categories whose immune systems are low; a lot of people that could be exposed unwittingly and unknowingly.

The right decision.

I don’t think there is a player, a manager, a coach, an official who could disagree with the decision – and despite the cynicism of some commentators, I don’t believe there is any manager that will try to circumvent the collective training ban.

These are unprecedented times and as a people we are unprepared for the potential impact that COVID-19 threatens the health of all of us – not just the vulnerable.

It puts sport in context – it actually is after all, ‘only a game’.

The impact of the crisis goes beyond those who become infected. The mental health of almost the entire population has been impacted – I have never seen so many speak about anxiety and stress, insecurity and feeling helpless.

What should we do? What can we do?

We have one great thing going for us in this country. We have not lost our sense of community. There is a great tradition of Meitheal – neighbours coming together to help each other with the harvest or other work. It’s great to see so many organisations and clubs putting plans in place to support the vulnerable in their hour of need. It is the greatest strength of the GAA and what makes it unique – it can move mountains when it mobilises.

Let’s hope we continue to see communities rallying around as they have always done.

The vast majority of people will be fine. There will be others who will become ill and recover. Sadly others may not. Hopefully the brilliant medical people in our hospitals will ensure the impact is minimal. Keeping a sense of perspective is vital. Hard not to worry; when we are self isolating anxiety and worry can become overwhelming. We need to stay connected though we are keeping our ‘social distance’ – a phone call or a text were never more important. Leave nobody behind. The spirit of Meitheal.

While we try to reduce our interactions, don’t forget that we live in a beautiful country and this morning it was nice not to be heading to training but to be able to go for a walk along the beautiful trail of Abbeyleix Bog Walk. It was stunning! Fresh air, space, nature. all free! Its easy forget that inter county players have a life away from the game and sometimes its hard for them to fit it all in – so this break in many ways may freshen a lot of players up.

Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk
Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk

The doom and gloom of the saturation coverage in our newspapers, tv and radio and worst of all social media is enough to get anyone down. The constant focus causes all but the most resilient and strongest to lose perspective. It’s important to get good advice and equally important to block out the fake news and hysteria.

Speaking of the GAA and community I am sure former Laois footballer Niall Donagher and his wife Aisling are in everybody’s thoughts at this time as they face the massive challenge of getting the medical treatment for their son Dan. They need to raise €2,000,000 to access the only medical treatment that will give Dan a chance to overcome his rare illness. They are off to a great start and you can help and show the spirit of Meitheal is alive and well by contributing to their GoFundMe campaign.

We face a major challenge; some among us haven’t grasped the importance of individual responsibility for the greater good. How important it is that we do everything to prevent the spread of the Corona virus. Let’s hope it has dawned on everyone now and that Ireland lives up to its reputation of good neighbourliness and pride in our communities and place.

Do get out and enjoy our beautiful countryside too. It will put a smile on your face and do you good!

The Boardwalk
Abbeyleix Bog
Abbeyleix Raised Bog

Leave a Reply