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comment The life of a GAA columnist during a pandemic is nothing to write home about!

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Sports grounds across the country are likely to remain closed until May at the earliest

Sports grounds across the country are likely to remain closed until May at the earliest

Sports grounds across the country are likely to remain closed until May at the earliest

ON a list of the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the plight of the GAA columnist would struggle to make into the top 1,000.

Nevertheless, the sight of a blinking cursor, a blank screen, a looming deadline and with nothing to write about is the lot of a GAA writer in 2021.

The last live GAA game, the All-Ireland women's final, was played five days before Christmas. The entrails from a unique All-Ireland championship left us with enough material to tide us over until the end of January.

By now, the Allianz Leagues ought to be up and running. But our ill-fated 'meaningful Christmas' put paid to that - and the chances are we won’t see the next live GAA inter-county match until May at the earliest.

In 2020, there were no inter-county GAA games between February 29 and October 17, though of course club championship activity resumed earlier.

It was infinitely easier to fill the void last year, however. But the nostalgia file is empty at this stage and the mood is different as well.

Since the start of the pandemic, I have likened the experience to running a marathon. After the initial discomfort, the early miles of a marathon are a bit of an adventure, much like the early months of lockdown.

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New GAA president Larry McCarthy

New GAA president Larry McCarthy

New GAA president Larry McCarthy

In the Covid-19 marathon, we hit the mythical 'wall' in the autumn when the country went into its second lockdown. Much like the real race, this was painful and required a lot of grit to get through.

Come Christmas we thought the worst the over, the end seemed in sight. Alas, as I have often told novice runners, the first thing to remember about the marathon is that the halfway point is not at 13.1 miles but at the 20-mile mark.

Likewise, with the pandemic. Our struggles in the third lockdown are akin to what marathon runners experience in the last 10km of the 42.2km race.

Reserves of energy are rapidly diminishing; people are not just physically exhausted, they are mentally jaded as well and unbelievably cranky.

But every metre travelled is one less to run before reaching the finish line.

Anyway, back to the topic of a GAA column. Having sat through a day-long Congress via zoom, I have lost the will to return to the topic.

There were upsides - nobody spoke unless by necessity, so much of the usual Congress verbose was thankfully absent.

And the former Cork GAA Board chair Tracey Kennedy delivered the killer line of the day when she told her fellow delegates ‘It’s said the most dangerous words in the English language are ‘we've always done it this way.’

New GAA President Larry McCarthy could do worse that adopt this sentence as his motto for his three-year term.

Anyone who ever attended Congress cannot help but notice the scarcity of female delegates.

Worldwide there is a movement to introduce gender equality in sporting organisations.

McCarthy has lived in the United States for the last 35 years, so he would be acutely aware of this policy. Nonetheless, his decision to appoint females to all the key GAA committees for the first time is welcome.

‘Hurling man’ got his comeuppance when the delegates voted by a whisker to introduce a sin-bin into the inter-county game for a one-year trial. Already the backlash has begun - expect a lot more criticism of the new rule during the summer months.

The team managers have lost round one, but this battle is far from over. However, until we see how the rule works in real time it is premature to criticise it.

Finally, methinks the GAA would make a better fist of administrating the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine that the HSE.

Of course, the GAA doesn't have the medical expertise available to administer the actual jab. But they have both the physical infrastructure and organisational capacity to deliver what is arguably the most important nationwide project in the history of the State.

Those of us who have attended funerals of GAA personalities in rural Ireland know how professional and meticulous the local GAA club organise the logistics around the event.

The reality is that the most challenging part of the vaccine roll-out has yet to begin. Failure is not an option and sadly the track record of the HSE and the Department of Health is woeful.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly could do worse than call Larry McCarthy and ask the GAA for help.

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