Once upon a time, and not so very long ago, the Irish rugby team were even more predictable than they are today.
Their opponents knew the drill all too well. The first 20 minutes would be fast and ferocious.
However, once half-time loomed the gap between Irish team’s intent and capacity, always their Achilles’ heel, became all too obvious.
Once opponents weathered the early, brief storm they had the advantage.
The Irish team could seem a spent force before the game had reached a decisive stage. This is not a criticism but rather a recognition that the players were culturally inclined to lead more rounded, more celebratory lives than some of their Calvinist opponents.
An Irish cap was, and is, a great honour but the Spartan lifestyle needed to dominate international sport was alien. Life was for living, not 7/7 training.
We are probably, metaphorically if not chronologically, 20 minutes into the game with coronavirus.
That description, in the grave circumstances, may seem preposterous but the example is not irrelevant. So far, we have done well but must do much, much better to get a result.
The greater part of the challenge, by far, lies ahead. Some of us are dangerously indulging old, easy-going habits that might make life easier than pressing alternatives.
Some of us are trying to pretend rounded, celebratory lives are possible.
This foolishness bordering on betrayal is epitomised by the Horse Racing Ireland decision to hold race meetings “behind closed doors” during the pandemic.
This selfish, living-in-a-bubble disconnect is indefensible and must be immediately reversed, especially as nearly every other sports organisation has taken the correct but hard decision to suspend activities.
Any doubts about the urgent need for hard-nosed, uncompromising measures can be set aside by looking at footage of Italian army trucks moving coffins from Italy’s worst-hit town to remote cremation sites because local morgues are overwhelmed.
At least 93 people have died and at least 4,305 people have been infected in Bergamo alone, a town of just 120,000 souls — about two-thirds of Cork City’s 190,000.
How well would we cope in those dire circumstances?
That California has extended its confinement orders to slow the outbreak; that Germany is to extend curfews; that Spain’s death toll has passed 1,000; that on Thursday Belgium recorded its biggest daily rise in deaths since the beginning of the epidemic all add to the batten-down-the-hatches momentum — as does the probability that our lockdown will be extended once the initial period has ended.
There is, unfortunately, no shortage of sobering examples of how the pandemic is painting humanity into a corner.
In this gathering gloom any reminder of the power of community is priceless — and this week the people of Ballyferriter in West Kerry have given the world one.
Journalist Seán Mac an tSíthigh recorded how that community, unable to attend local woman, potter Betty Ryan’s funeral because of coronavirus limits, lined the roads between their church and the local graveyard to bid her a fond farewell.
Yesterday we buried a lovely woman. Due to #Covid19 there was no wake & our community couldn’t enter the church.— Seán Mac an tSíthigh (@Buailtin) March 20, 2020
But the entire parish came out & lined the 2km road to graveyard to say goodbye to Betty Ryan.
Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine #WestKerry pic.twitter.com/Sns99qUSad
Like many great statements Mac an tSíthigh’s film is at first deceptively simple but in a quite, very understated way deeply reassuring at this moment of great challenge.