'We are half isolated most of the time. This is nothing new to us'

“Being honest, we are half isolated most of the time. This is nothing new to us,” says Urhan GAA chairman Seamus Sullivan of the restricted lifestyle brought about by Covid-19.

The 2019 Beara Junior Football champions, Urhan. Picture Anne Marie Cronin Photography
The 2019 Beara Junior Football champions, Urhan. Picture Anne Marie Cronin Photography

Like so many GAA units across the country, the Urhan club - situated in the heart of the Beara peninsula - continues to function even though the locks have long since gone up at their ground.

In a community where the “GAA is everything” and “everything goes through the club”, Urhan’s GAA officers were quick into action to ensure nobody would be left stuck during the difficult weeks and, potentially, months ahead.

The majority of residents in the area are connected via a WhatsApp group run by the GAA club. And no sooner had Taoiseach Leo Varadkar instructed people to limit their daily movements when a message was put into the group listing names and numbers for anyone to contact should they require a helping hand.

Be it grocery shopping or collecting prescriptions in nearby Castletownbere, chopping wood, or dropping off bags of coal, no request is too big or small.

“Our services will definitely be called on at some stage because we'll be living like this for a while,” says Sullivan, who doubles up as club secretary.

“We are always asking parents and kids to play with us so it is nice to be able to put the hand the other way and say, we will help you. Whatever the request, we'll oblige. And the person looking for assistance doesn’t have to be of good age, we will help anyone as we try and get through this crazy time we are stuck in.”

The Urhan club may be home to only 80 or so members, but the lack of GAA activity is being as sorely felt way, way down in West Cork as it is anywhere else in the country.

Their field was a meeting place for young and old. Weekend matches, be they U10 or Junior A, brought a community together.

“At the moment, there is a big hole in our lives. Hopefully, it will come back to us,” Sullivan continues.

“In a rural area like this, the GAA is everything. The weekend is taken up by GAA and that is where you meet people. Of course, you want to win the games, but it's more than results, it is the social setting that it offers, the craic that is had. When the GAA does come back, people will be down on their knees with delight.

“We are all doing our best to keep up communication with the elderly in the locality so as to ensure there is no sense of loneliness. My mother, Kathleen, is 88-years of age and we are just allowed to look in the window at her. My sister is minding her.

“There are more people around the place who are of similar age, so communication is key. Everyone, to their credit, is communicating with each other, so while isolation may be the name of the game, people know the support and help is there should they require it.”

Although there are times when the remoteness of the Beara peninsula can be a challenge, Sullivan has never been so thankful to call Ardgroom - a quick spin up the road from Urhan - home.

“There are a lot of holiday homes down here and what we are finding is that a lot of people from the cities are after coming back down to stay in the holiday homes while all this is going on. They think, maybe, that because we are so isolated, there is less chance of getting it [down here].

“We are always giving out about living down here and that we are always traveling to games morning, noon, and night, but I think for once in our life, we are probably in a good place. We are on the outer edges. Our next stop is America, as the fella says.

“I can head away up hills for a walk and I wouldn’t meet a soul for miles. In that sense, I do feel sorry for people in the city who are cooped up in their houses and with three or four children who have nowhere to roam. It is harder for them, at the moment.

“But isolation is going to kill this disease, nothing else. We must all obey what we are being told to do.”

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