They dot the land. Rectangles of grass. Some lit, some fenced. Some shaved with the delicate care of the dandiest hipster. Others worn ragged from decades of service.
But all symbols of ambition and pride and love. Gluing communities. Rearing kids. Nurturing dreams.
A place where you can find whatever you’re looking for. A bag of balls and an evening’s peace. Or a Sunday afternoon battle.
Now they all lie idle. Guarded territories in a deadly war.
There’s bitter, tragic irony in the dozens of messages pumped out on social channels — warning, chiding, pleading with a generation to stay away from the field.
Clarinbridge GAA club in Galway: “It has been brought to our attention that groups are meeting at the pitch. This is not allowed. We can’t stop the virus, but together, we can slow it down. We must stay apart in every social setting. Following this we have closed all access to our grounds including the pitch.”
Lucan GAA club in Dublin: “Please note that with immediate effect @GAALucan premises, grounds, carpark and pitches are closed and out-of-bounds. No casual use of our facilities is permitted. We have made our facilities available to the HSE to allow for Covid-19 drive-thru testing take place in the carpark.”
Douglas Hall soccer club in Cork: “There would seem to be an unauthorised match being played on the grounds. This shows a complete lack of respect to the club, our neighbours, the nursing home next door and what we are all trying to achieve with social distancing at the moment. THE CLUB IS CLOSED, members are not permitted to enter and will be treated as trespassers!!!”
Dicksboro GAA club in Kilkenny: “Club facilities are completely closed down. Gym, pitches, ball wall are not to be used under any circumstances. No gym work, pucking around or even running on club grounds is allowed. You will not be insured if you do as the GAA has suspended player insurance until further notice.”
The senders of those messages will have gone against every urge and instinct and habit, in turning people away from the field.
In many cases, it is the men and women who have given their lives to the field; to funding it, growing it, cutting it, lining it, minding it, who are most vulnerable now.
It is they who need a small repayment for the great gifts they have given us.