Eilish O'Dowd gathers the ball under pressure last Sunday against Limerick in the Lidl Ladies NFL Picture: Willie Donnellan
With all the talk of the coronavirus, Covid-19, self-isolation and travel bans, the world of sport can almost seem trivial at a time like this. Because whatever your view about the situation, there are people genuinely afraid and that’s not a nice place to be for anyone.
Sports seems so trivial at these times, just as it does when tragedy strikes but for many of us, sport in all its variety and form is almost elemental, something that thrills us, drives us to push ourselves harder than we could ever believe and all in pursuit of some form of sporting excellence.
At times of tragedy, the embrace of the sporting community has made some of the hard times that little bit more bearable, a reminder that when it comes down to it, for all our rivalries and passions, we all hail from the same community.
Some will tell you that sport has literally saved their lives - you can find solace from your troubles or meaning in your endeavours, whether you be Gerard O’Donnell flying over three feet six high barriers or a middle of the pack runners competing in the highly successful Tony McGowan Road Races last Sunday.
The hours put in might be different but what the Carrick AC international and the fun runner taking in the sights of Drumshanbo share is a desire to improve themselves and to take part in an activity that they truly enjoy.
For some, sport is nothing less than a way of life, an obsession almost that drives their very being, some to unhealthy degrees but for others, their daily or weekly activity might just be the most enjoyable way of relieving the stresses of everyday life that we’re all subjected to.
I’d imagine that if a ban is brought in on public gatherings and even playing field games, be it the Leitrim Leagues in Gaelic football or the Sligo Leitrim Soccer Divisions or even the auld five-a-side kick about among friends, the absence of that stress release is going to be felt up and down the country.
The Coronavirus crisis looks like it will have a devastating impact on sport all around the world. Sport in Italy has been closed down by Government decree, the Six Nations faces an October finish and even the Olympics in Tokyo are having to consider alternatives if the worst comes to the worst.
At the moment, Cheltenham is going ahead but one wonders how much longer before sporting events all across the country are going to get the blanket ban and as a sports fan, you wonder about where it is all going to end?
Will Leitrim hurlers get to take on Sligo this Sunday in Dr Hyde Park? Will the footballers get relegated to Division 4 if the remaining games in Division 3 aren’t played?
I know I’d be among the millions who will be devastated if we can’t get our weekly dose of sporting highs, although as an Everton fan, if it stopped Liverpool’s inexorable march to the Premier League title, it can’t be all that bad!
Contrary git that I am, I’d probably argue why does sport take the hit and have to come to a screeching halt, while thousands of people pack into buses and trains each and every day to get to work and that is ok?
But then the bigger picture comes front and centre and, as someone who has family members vulnerable to the devastating effects of Covid-19, I’m sanguine enough to know that the greater good has to come first.
So what’s the lesson? Appreciate your health and all that? Certainly. And maybe this dreaded virus might just bring a bit of community spirit and common purpose to a world that is increasingly split and bitter and divided. That can’t be a bad thing.
But most of all, it reminds you just how lucky we all are to have sport as the object of our affections, as something that drives us, inspires us and entertains us. And maybe, just maybe, the next time we go mental over a referee’s decision or a mistake by one of our sporting idols, we might remember just how lucky we are to have sport to keep us all going through good times and bad.