Courcey Rovers: 'There is nothing in the GAA manual to prepare you for the past week'

Courcey Rovers: 'There is nothing in the GAA manual to prepare you for the past week'
Courcey Rovers captain John Collins receives the SE JAHC trophy from Pat Desmond, Chairman SE GAA Board and Mick Good, Good Fish Co, sponsors. Picture: Howard Crowdy

Courcey Rovers were dealt a massive financial blow by the Covid-19 shutdown but are caring for the parish's most vulnerable.

The Cork club has 450 members covering their adults, underage and camogie sections. Chairman Sean O’Callaghan describes the week following the restriction on social gatherings.

“There is nothing in the GAA manual to prepare you for the past week. The concerns about COVID-19 were something we were extremely aware of before the GAA announced their blanket ban on all activities on Thursday (March 12) as we had one of our main fundraisers planned for the following weekend.

“The Wild Atlantic Run is a massive event for us as a club, and a community. We had about 500 runners and walkers signed up to compete but we were already concerned about whether it could go ahead in light of the developing situation.

"So the GAA’s call to cease all events made the decision for us and we immediately cancelled it. It is a blow to a rural club like ours. A massive amount of work had gone into it by the players in particular and our hope is to run it again provided we can get Athletics Ireland approval (as they had sanctioned the original date).

“Given our location, near the Old Head of Kinsale and along by Garretstown it is always a hugely popular event with monies raised going primarily to aid and assist in the preparations of our Premier Intermediate team in terms of getting them the extras and pushing the extra mile. But, as I said, fingers crossed we will get a chance to go again.”

Within a few days the club had a new project — helping the community.

Sean explained: “A few clubs were posting notices on social media that they were available to provide assistance to people in their areas. One of the players came to the table with it and said we should consider it. We went for it straight away and within a few hours we had 20 names including players, officials and non GAA people who signed up, and posted their numbers on our T witter page offering help.

"The parish covers quite a large area but we have coverage for nearly every townland thanks to the volunteers. And they have been called on a few times in the past week, collecting coal from the Co-Op, briquettes, picking up shopping and prescriptions. To me and you they may seem like small, everyday things but to an old person they are absolutely vital. The key thing is that we have plenty of willing bodies available and that makes it all so much easier and successful.”

O’Callaghan’s phone was humming in the days after the statement from Croke Park. The questions followed a similar theme: “People were asking if they could do this, or do that in terms of training and you just have to tell them ‘no’. People quickly realised the extent of the shutdown and then grew accustomed to it.

“So with our main team, the Premier IHC side, we started to send them programmes at home, things to keep them active. The challenge as I see it is that every player comes back to us the same way as they left us on March 12.

"And it is great to see that social media is playing a part with the likes of Shane Kingston and Patrick Horgan showing their skills in clips in the back garden or off a gable wall. Players young and old can follow their example and keep improving and developing.”

The club are also developing their own content. “We have all these old VHS tapes of big games we played in from South East Divisional matches to county championship games. Thanks to Vincie Hurley and Jerry O’Neill we are getting them transferred to a different format and putting them up on our Facebook page. The 1993 South East final is up already and getting good traction.”

Though the pitch may be out of bounds, O’Callaghan has a top team on the sidelines making sure that it will be like a carpet when the first ball is ready to be thrown in.

“Men like Neilie Collins, Teddy Nyhan and Dan Joe Coholan are invaluable to us, they treat the pitch like their own front garden. One of the positives in a time of crisis like this is how everyone, all the various committees, are coming together, talking to one another and working for the greater good. We are all taking it day by day. We know it is not going to end tomorrow or next week. All we know is to be prepared for a bit of a journey.”

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