On Easter Saturday, in the Irish racing world, we should be getting ready to break out again after being locked down for the whole of Good Friday as, like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it is one of only three days where you knew before any calendar was released, there would be no racing.
Three whole days in the year guaranteed to be free!
The UK, who unlike Ireland, opened its pubs on good Friday anyway, broke with the no racing on Good Friday tradition in 2014 when Musselburgh and Lingfield sold their venues out to capacity crowds and racing on Good Friday became a roaring success.
We — or Limerick, actually — got a court injunction in 2010 to open the pubs on Good Friday when Munster played Leinster in a Celtic League match. The Limerick vintners argued that the pub closures would cost them between six and €10m if they weren’t allowed to open that day.
The courts agreed and a landmark decision was reached over a law first created in 1927.
As anticipated, the Government yesterday extended the national lockdown we are currently enduring for a further three weeks at least.
When you look at the infection rates and spread rates, they have dropped to just over one infected person infecting one more from a rate of over 2.5 infections per person infected.
Clearly, it is working, and whatever way we look at this, social distancing is here and here to stay until a vaccine is produced to make as many people as possible safe from this wretched virus.
Even when the Government starts an incremental reverse (I heard that on Prime Time), how many people are even going to be willing to risk gathering in a crowd?
Are parents going to stay in their cars while 20 U12s run around a pitch in a huddle playing a match? Or sit in a full restaurant, let alone stand in a crowded pub? Will fans want to travel anywhere overseas? The tourism, hospitality, and public transport sectors are going to be the slowest or even last to get going again to whatever the new normal will be.
So, the two-day pub closures and three blank racing days look like nothing right now, but many fans and supporters tie the two together when they embark on a sporting day out.
Can you imagine no pubs open in Dublin on All-Ireland final day, or in Thurles for the Munster final?
Where will fans go to celebrate or even retreat to debate a loss? All the pre-match or racing hospitality gigs or the day-long ones at golf tournaments, will people attend them? Are people going to pile onto buses even to get these events?
But sport, like business, is going to start again at some stage so what it looks like is probably the bigger question because, for as far away as I can look, it’s not going to resemble much of what the past looked like.
Sadly, I don’t see a return to team sport for young children any time soon as keeping social distance is not easily explained or will even be in any way manageable, particularly among younger kids.
Professionals will eventually feel the financial pressure to play, but amateurs, as is right, will always have the choice — but the precedent is there. Dressing rooms will stand as empty buildings while teams arrive as individuals, ready to play and leave as they came.
Clubhouses and pro shops will be monuments in the background, and grandstands will only be for blocking the wind.
Team meetings will be done by Zoom conference calls and half-time breaks will be taken each side of the halfway line. Backroom teams will be trimmed to the bare essentials, and fans will watch from home.
Sport will be back at some stage — and back with a bang — and what channels or networks you have will come into focus. I have refined mine, eager to be ahead, probably just bored but, like everyone else, I have no social outgoings at present and don’t think I will for a long time yet.
Going to the local to watch is not going to be an option for quite some time.
That is what I believe is coming down the line. I don’t know when sport will return; in a month’s time wishfully, two or three perhaps, but hopefully not as far as six.
Racing has some experience of what might be to come, having been run behind closed doors a few weeks ago.
“During that time, it learned what extras could be cut and how the running of the sport could be trimmed to the necessary essential attendees.
It set a precedent then which many didn’t like but one plenty will want to learn about in the coming months.
Ultimately, government will decide when we can start to edge our way out of our homes, but racing needs two doctors and two ambulances to be on course before any horse can go on the track.
When the time comes that two of each are spare again, then I guess the curve will have become a flat line and the comeback will begin.