This afternoon at Páirc Seán MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon our Connacht Championship campaign was meant to get underway. Of course, like so much of life nowadays, that fixture, along with plans for the entire Championship, has been mothballed.
Today’s scheduled meeting with Leitrim would certainly have had a novel air about it. We’ve only met Leitrim once in Connacht since the blog’s inception – when we enjoyed a facile win over them in 2012 at MacHale Park – and you have to go as far back as 2006 for our most recent provincial clash with them at Carrick-on-Shannon.
The fine stand that adorns Páirc Seán wasn’t even built back then – it went up the following year – and our hopes of Championship advancement, under the tutelage of Mickey Moran and the late John Morrison, very nearly came unstuck that day. A match we were comfortably in charge of careered wildly out of control after we lost Pat Harte to a red card early in the second half.
We were lucky to emerge from Carrick that afternoon with a one-point win. Few of us who trudged out from the ground with furrowed brows after that close shave would have believed that the same Mayo team would later that summer go on to claim a storied All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin. I certainly didn’t fancy our chances of going too far after that stuttering opener against the Ridge County.
It would have been great to hit the road today at the start of another Championship campaign. Another summer headed towards an unknown destination – it’s that lack of advance knowledge about how a game and, by extension, a whole season is likely to pan out that bestows on sport so much of its magic. We should all have been feeling the first frisson of this summer’s magic today.
Instead, we’re left with a Covid-induced void. We might have a truncated Championship later in the year, which may or may not spill over into 2021, or we might see no Championship football at all this year. Our unknown destination now relates to how and when all the current restrictions are lifted and what kind of route this opens up back to something approaching normality for all of us.
Today, thinking about all those fine GAA grounds around the country that should have been hosting competitive clashes this afternoon, normality seems, if anything, further away than it ever was. This crisis will, I know, eventually pass. But not before further, long-lasting damage has been done and weekend after weekend passes without any Championship action.
Tonight The Sunday Game returns to our TV screens. The show tonight should have contained highlights from a number of games played on the first weekend proper of the 2020 Championship but instead it’ll be no more than some old blather about games played in past years, from campaigns long done and dusted.
I don’t plan to tune in. What’s the point? Let’s face it – none of us will be able to tune back in properly to Gaelic football any time soon.
It’s often said that the past is another country but now that distant shore, the vague contours of which can’t yet be properly glimpsed, is out there in the future somewhere. In another time and in a place where all those things we took so much for granted are once more within our grasp.