This Saturday, I’ll be taking it easy. Keeping the powder dry. The sword shall remain in the scabbard. There will be no sudden movements. Phrases will be left unturned.
I’ll not squeeze in a quick round of golf. My diet will be on point. I’ll get to bed early and all blue light devices and screen time is banned. Should a child approach with a bulging nappy, I will happily pretend my nose is malfunctioning and send them in the way of a spouse or grandparent. I can’t afford the effort.
I may not even make a dent on the spirits while I cook with Craig Charles’ Saturday night vibes on Radio 6 playing in the background, such is the seriousness with which I approach the National League meeting between Donegal and Tyrone in Ballybofey. It means that much. Probably too much. But there it is.
After six months without inter-county action, us GAA writers are a ravenous bunch.
Ravenous though we may be, if you are at the gates of Pairc MacCumhaill around 3pm on Sunday you may catch the confusing sight of journalists with laptops slung over their shoulder and building site issue Rover biscuit tins, the lids held tightly in place with a sewer band in one hand.
A journalist could pick a stray cornflake out of your beard without you noticing. But now? The party is over. Of all the misery coronavirus has inflicted upon society, denying a group of hacks their egg and onion pieces and a cut of Swiss roll is the greatest affront.
But there’s always the games, right?
At a sports awards dinner many years ago, the great Sean O’Neill shared a Mick O’Connell anecdote. The greatest thrill of Gaelic football according to O’Connell, O’Neill said, was “the feeling of his fingers closing on the ball in mid-air”.
There are similar adrenalin-spiking equivalents for journalists. Stopping a stopwatch bang on 35 minutes at half-time and remembering to start it again at the start of the second half. Getting to the ground and finding no connection to a power source but a fully-charged laptop is another.
Still, such exhilarations of the human spirit cannot compare to the promise of getting stuck back into an inter-county season.
We fear that’s all it will be, though. The catch is often nothing compared to the chase. It’s about the journey and not the destination. The day is the whole show.
After weeks of watching Dungannon end 64 years in the Tyrone wilderness and Ederney reaching the promised land in Fermanagh after 52, how could this Sunday compare?
Having said that, those spells of obscurity have nothing on this Sunday when Mickey Harte will presumably break his self-imposed six-month media absence.
Think of all the miles of columns that spin from follow-ups out of Harte briefings. Five minutes in front of the most quotable man in Gaelic games is all you need to sustain another month of thought pieces.
Again, it will be different. A missive arrived earlier this week guiding the media through the choppy waters ahead.
“Informal huddled interviews with players after the formal organised set-piece will not be possible in the current circumstances,” it thunders, cheeks red and blotchy with authoritarianism. ‘The mixed group interviews at team buses will also not be permitted,” it bellows on, puce with rage.
If this is how it all ends, well, then what a trip it was. The post-match media huddle was a much under-analysed area of anthropology.
There were the authoritative kind of journalists who liked to stand right in front of a team manager and ‘own the space’ as they say on the squash court. There were those that would spot an interview going on and sprint hard towards the herd, producing as big a hit as anything on the pitch that day.
You have those who linger for their own private audience, which in these days of bedroom podcasters was growing out of control. You also have the uninterested cynics, too long in the job, dangling a Dictaphone at the end of a limp arm and not getting involved in questioning.
My favourite to look out for — indeed, I was that soldier on occasion — was the one badly hungover, trying their best to face away from a man such as, say, Paddy Tally, who appears as if they might have knocked out a quick 10-mile run that morning just to get a glow in their cheeks.
You can imagine David Attenborough recording a box set on the lesser-spotted Gaelic games journalist, far from their natural habitat of the spare bedroom or kitchen table, out in the wild among people.
“Watch the elders,” Attenborough gently whispers, “keeping the rest at bay with the strong smell of their breath and their overcoat that hasn’t been through a wash in years.”
There will be no crowds. There will be no traffic. No waiting in a line trying to snake your way out of Ballybofey. There will be no smell of onions crisping up on a hot plate. No gangs of young boys and girls spilling out of the pubs and hotels high on life, football and alcohol.
The colour is gone from our world. For now.
Good to be back all the same.
It's been so long since there was a programme of games ongoing that you could soon lose track of the state of play, derailed as we have been by the small matter of a global pandemic.
And the most eye-catching fixture involving an Ulster side this weekend is happening in Tullamore on Sunday, when Antrim face Kerry in the Division 2A hurling final.
The two have already met in the league, Antrim polishing off opponents who in the past had proved doughty on a 2-20 to 2-14 scoreline on March 1.
As it happened, the Kerry team on the day was significantly weakened by illness, which in this case happened to be mumps, that ruled out, among others, Shane Conway, the star of UCC’s team who has many admirers far and wide.
Now they get to see how far they have come, and so too do Antrim.
A win here would frank the long-term planning the Saffrons put in place some years ago, when a four-man management team of Terence McNaughton, Dominic McKinley, Gary O’Kane and Neal Peden came in halfway through a season.
They got through some tough times and while McNaughton and McKinley are now gone, there was a succession plan with Peden taking over as manager before moving into a director of hurling role.
The involvement of now Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy extended to his former goalkeeper Darren Gleeson, who is now not just the manager but a huge figurehead.
Peden said last March: “When I had Darren there last year, we could see that Darren had all you need to be a good county manager.
“That’s why we wanted to get him this year.
“I had a real insight, being involved in the last three or four years, of what was missing in Antrim, what we needed to do. That’s why we were so keen to keep Darren in this year and that level of professionalism in the role.”
One more step on Sunday.