No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

DECLAN BONNER: Testing few months ahead

This weekend we were supposed to be heading for Tralee and a big meeting with Kerry in the final round of the National Football League.

I know a lot of supporters had booked to go down and it’s always a nice trip when you get away to the Kingdom.

Unfortunately it had to be scrapped due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the GAA season has been parked for the time being.

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That presents a lot of challenges like trying to prepare a panel of players when you can’t meet up as a collective group.

The players have been given programmes and will do their best to maintain their fitness.

We are trying to ready ourselves for the championship and yet now we do not know if it will go ahead as planned.

It’s far from ideal but you need to bring perspective into the equation, and appreciate that there are much more important things than sport in life.

They’re talking about 15,000 cases in Ireland by the end of the month, and covid-19 will probably visit every town and village and country throughout the world.

Unfortunately some of the people that pick up the virus won’t survive it. That’s scary.

The elderly and people with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable, and if one of your loved ones comes into either of those two categories, then you will be struggling to sleep with worry.

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Other folk find themselves out of work at the moment and there’s the issue of trying to pay bills with no income for possibly a few months.

Some businesses have closed the door temporarily and the reality is that they may never open again.

These are very concerning times, and yet I have been very heartened by the response of the GAA and local clubs here in Donegal.

Croke Park has opened up as a testing centre and it’s important that we help the community in any way we can.

Most clubs have volunteers who will go and check on the elderly or bring supplies to people who are vulnerable.

We are hearing a lot about self-isolation but it is vital that people stay connected at the moment. We can help one another get through this.

As I said, with this situation there are much more important things than Gaelic Football, but it does make you realise how big of a part sport plays in our lives.

I like a lot of people spend many evenings away from home at training or games.

And very often when I am at home, I end up watching a match or highlights from the weekend or something. So it’s a strange feeling to have no live sport on the TV.

A lot of people will be hooked to Youtube to try and find old games to look back at.

I sat down and watched Dublin against Armagh in the 1977 All-Ireland Final on St Patrick’s Day.

I enjoyed the game and it brought me back to a bygone era.

It was striking just how much ball was kicked away, and there wasn’t the same importance on retaining possession.

It was like a different game entirely but that’s the way it goes. Tactics change over the years and that is only right.

It’s a waiting game now until we can return to playing games, and it will probably take a few months.

Even when we are allowed to return, teams will have to be given a few weeks to get back training and get up to speed again.

Competitions may have to be changed, and we could see a different format for the championship this year, or games might have to be played week after week.

It’s going to have a big impact on club football in Donegal too.

The leagues were due to start on the 28th and 29th of March but it’s hard to see any games being played for a while yet.

I think the general consensus is that club football ran well in Donegal over the last couple of years.

A fixture plan had been devised for the 2020 season as well and that will have to be significantly altered now.

Again like everything, we don’t know how long it will go on for, and it’s not easy to make plans.

There may have to be just one round of fixtures in the league as opposed to two, and the club championship format could be changed if necessary.

There will be clashes down the line and inevitably some teams or clubs will feel hard done by with a decision that is made.

However, people will have to recognise that these are unprecedented times and there is no blueprint on how to deal with it.

These are extraordinary circumstances and people will have to row in behind the powers-that-be when the time comes and follow their guidelines.

In the meantime all we can really do is sit tight and follow the advice we have been given by the experts.

It’s going to be a difficult time for people and some will be concerned about getting the coronavirus or their loved ones getting it, and then there are financial implications with so many businesses closing down.

It’s crucial that people look after mental health. Go out for a walk or run and get fresh air, or pick up the phone and ring people even if it is only for a five minute chat.

I’d like to finish off by thanking our doctors and nurses and healthcare officials and emergency services for their hard work over the last week, as well as people working in shops and chemists and for food suppliers.

It’s going to be a testing few months ahead and I hope that people can find the strength and support they need, as it’s important that the general public stay strong and united during these uncertain times.