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Pictured Oisin McConville



Date: Wednesday 5th May 2010

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Photographer: Liam McBurney

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In time, sport will play a huge role in returning us to normality

Oisin McConville


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Croke Park is being used as a coronavirus testing centre but some day will once again be thronged with crowds.

Croke Park is being used as a coronavirus testing centre but some day will once again be thronged with crowds.

�INPHO/Norman McCloskey

Croke Park is being used as a coronavirus testing centre but some day will once again be thronged with crowds.

Apart from having provided us all with total confirmation that your health is your wealth, the coronavirus crisis - and believe me, that's what it is - has also furnished us with a reminder that sport is in essence only an element in the lives of most of us.

The wholesale cancellation of a broad range of sporting events has already driven home the message that nothing supersedes personal wellbeing.

And much as most of us miss our sporting fix, we have all taken cognisance of the fact that we are extremely vulnerable in the face of what is regarded as one of the most deadly viruses to have invaded these shores.

For me personally, the pandemic has meant a huge drop in income, increased worries in relation to the health of my family and apprehension surrounding the immediate future.

Last week I was in places as far apart as Cork, Galway and Belfast attending sports-related seminars and forums, but the curtain has come down on this for now, and it is much the same in relation to the punditry work I have been undertaking of late.

A sudden drop in earnings can be a shock to the system and, while I have certainly experienced this myself, I know that there are many other people who are in the same boat as me, and indeed there are others in a worse plight, particularly those with underlying illnesses and those elderly people living alone in remote areas.

I would normally log up 1,000 miles per week, but right now I feel I could do without a car.

Yet when I see the panic buying in the shops and detect the real fear in people's faces, and especially when I pass the morning newspaper into my mother through a scarcely-open window, the extent of what is occurring all round me becomes clear.

Sport can prove a welcome distraction from normal day-to-day worries and problems, but right now even the most fanatical followers among us are forced to accept that they must put their interests on the back burner.

I have never been a fan of matches in any code being staged behind closed doors but I have to admit that some such games to date have proved a distraction in what is turning out to be a worrying period.

I am a fanatic when it comes to televised sport, particularly when it is 'live'.

I will watch almost any sport on the box, including cricket, rugby, soccer, tennis, golf, boxing, hockey, F1 racing and of course GAA.

There is no doubt that sport can be engrossing, therapeutic and quite often tremendously uplifting.

And, on certain occasions, it can be inspirational and enormously gratifying.

Just now, when sport of any significance is virtually non-existent, its absence consumes me, indeed depresses me.

Yet I must keep things in context. There are many, many people in Ulster today who are fraught with worry, almost petrified in relation to the future and perplexed as to just what they should be doing to ensure the good health of their children and other relatives.

We all know that there are few better feelings than looking forward to a big football match on television - indeed, the sense of anticipation is perhaps the best part of it as sometimes the game can prove a damp squib - and settling down to enjoy it with refreshment of whatever hue to hand.

Sport is a big part of the lives of many of us because of its appeal, competitiveness and indeed glamour.

I suspect that for the next few weeks people who might not otherwise look at certain sports on television will find themselves tuning into some of the very limited fixtures and events on that had previously remained off their personal radar.

I believe that an interest in sport can be stimulating, challenging and, above all, healthy. It encourages us to admire excellence when we see it unfurl before our eyes and can trigger rather colourful language within us when we see something that displeases us.

I have no doubt that we will all become rather more acquainted with repeats of sporting encounters on television for the next few weeks, maybe even months - there will be nothing else for us, that's the simple truth.

I feel, too, that when the major sports return in full bloom spectators will come out in their thousands, assuming clearance has been given for this by the statutory authorities.

Indeed, I think it is important from a mental health perspective that people fully engage with society as a whole again, and one of the ways they can best do this is by participating in or attending sporting events.

For the moment, though, I feel we will have to exercise a little more patience and just do as things do with us. After all, we don't have any great choice, do we?

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