There comes a point in your life when you just want to lie down and hope the pain goes away.
Your head hurts as it reverberates with the sound of politicians trading insults.
Meanwhile, football in Northern Ireland continues to go up in flames.
With an election looming this year, the sectarian bun fights are gathering pace. As predictable as they are painful.
Then there’s our game which at every level continues to unite people and give them hope and comfort, particularly as we emerge from a pandemic and face an ongoing mental health crisis.
Right now, all we are getting is political squabbling and statements expressing disgust.
The time for talking is long gone. We need action and the Sub-Regional funding promise from 11 years ago needs to be delivered.
Thousands of fans stood in the rain and watched the Big Two game on Friday night. They were the lucky ones who could get a ticket.
For how much longer is our game and the communities they serve in so many ways going to be treated with contempt?
The frustration felt around the Irish League community is intense but it goes much deeper than that.
The lack of support and respect which is being shown has a negative impact from grassroots level right up to the international stage where the Irish FA have a stadium which cannot host European Championship or World Cup matches and they have yet to see a National Training Centre come to fruition.
And if our young people are deprived of the right facilities, the real danger is they will not fulfil their sporting potential.
Just when you thought there were no pause buttons left to hit, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has parked a long-awaited £36m funding package for local stadia.
Minister Hargey maintains the funding package hasn’t been shelved. It just can’t be approved by the Executive.
The Minister said: “The DUP collapse of the Executive is preventing the regeneration of local stadiums.
“The money to regenerate stadiums is there, but requires Executive sign-off.
“I remain absolutely committed to delivering this investment, to support sports clubs and build first-class facilities.”
Irish FA chief executive, Patrick Nelson, issued a statement yesterday in which he said he expected the funding promised by the Executive 11 years ago and reaffirmed in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document in 2020 to be issued.
But NIFL chief executive Gerard Lawlor cuts a figure tortured by empty promises and delay. So much so that he’s ready to take his plea for help to both the British and Irish governments.
The former Cliftonville chairman is tired of being let down and watching the game he loves tossed around like a political football.
There’s a blame game at Stormont while a sport that is bringing people together is being neglected.
The original £36m figure, which dates back to 2011, was to be divided into five areas, including £10m for the redevelopment of Glentoran’s Oval stadium in east Belfast but construction costs have soared since then.
A Uefa study has shown that football here adds around half a billion pounds to the Northern Ireland economy. It keeps giving, despite the lack of support.
People dismiss the Irish League as a poor product but the reality is standards are improving on the back of new full-time mindsets, attendances are rising and clubs are active in their communities.
Just one small example of this is when Crusaders were awarded The Queen’s Award For Voluntary Service for Providing Important Support and Services in North Belfast.
The award is the highest form of civic recognition that can be granted to an organisation in recognition of the outstanding work of volunteers. The north Belfast side teamed up with community partners to help deliver around 30,000 meals over 12 weeks.
They are just one of several clubs waiting on funding to continue redevelopment work at their Shore Road home, Seaview.
The Department of Finance has stated that there would be no impact on the redevelopment of GAA stadium Casement Park if the Sub-Regional stadiums funding did not receive final approval.
“Casement Park is a designated Executive Flagship project and funding will be provided in line with that prior commitment,” the department said.
Inevitably, GAA and football are being pitted against one another when the reality is that both commitments are needed and should be delivered.
Ironically, the Irish FA may need the keys to a new Casement to host Euro 2028 games should a UK and Republic of Ireland bid be successful.
The talking and statements continue. Here are Irish FA Chief Executive Nelson’s thoughts.
“Football in Northern Ireland needs investment,“ he said.
“It is a game that unites communities, raises aspirations, improves people’s physical and mental health, not to mention generating employment and income which is crucial to people’s lives.
“We see this every day through the different programmes of work we deliver and our Social Return on Investment (SROI) results, released last year with Uefa, confirmed we add around half a billion pounds to the Northern Ireland economy.
“The Sub-Regional funding was a commitment by the NI Executive made 11 years ago. It was then reaffirmed in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document in 2020, where the NI Executive stated it would advance with plans to complete both the Regional and Sub-Regional stadia programmes, including Casement Park.
“And, while we note the Minister for Communities’ comments, it is only the Executive that can unwind on this commitment and cancel this funding unilaterally. We have been part of a structured group including officials from the Department for Communities, the Strategic Investment Board, Sport NI, the Chief Leisure Officers Association (CLOA) and NIFL for two years. This group was geared to progressing the implementation of the Sub-Regional investment programme and the group met as late as last week. We have previously expressed our concern to senior department officials on the lack of engagement from the Minister on reviewing the outputs from this group.
“We are fully supportive of the Casement Park project and will support all efforts in making this happen. It is a project the GAA community has waited too long for and that it fully deserves. We note with interest the Finance Minister’s comments and, given that both Sub-Regional and Casement Park are part of the same Executive commitment, we expect that his confirmation of funding extends to the Sub-Regional programme too.
“Given the 11-year delay on fulfilling these commitments, we expect that any additional resourcing requirements needed will be made available for both projects.”
The Executive collapsed earlier this month when Paul Givan resigned as First Minister and in these politically uncertain times, the outlook for domestic football appears bleak but that’s nothing new.
Politicians have failed the game and the communities they serve. So, what can we look forward to? Another consultation exercise after the election?
Another refresh and re-engagement exercise?
Fans won’t lose faith in Irish League football but they are rapidly losing faith in politicians who are meant to serve.
No more talking. We’ve heard enough. Do your jobs and release the money.