The postponement of Championship action until July, at the earliest, has changed little for Cork footballer Kevin Flahive.
Ronan McCarthy’s players had long accepted their Munster semi-final against Kerry would not take place on May 24.
Wednesday’s statement from the GAA, welcome and all as it was, does not offer any cast iron guarantee that there will be an All-Ireland Championship in 2020. How could it? Any return to play will be based on the advice of medical officials and the Government.
Until then, uncertainty abounds.
Until then, each and every inter-county player must continue to sit tight.
Flahive has been sat on the sideline for longer than most. His waiting game stretches back to November of last year.
Coming out with the ball during Cork’s first training session of the new season, he pushed off a team-mate. In that moment, his left shoulder popped up and out. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but the ease at which his shoulder came loose told the corner-back he could no longer put off getting it sorted.
Surgery on his torn labrum was performed on December 5. And no sooner was he in the door from hospital that two dates were circled on the yet to be hung 2020 calendar. Mid-April became the target for a return to training, May 24 for a return to the red shirt.
The 24-year-old kept his end of the bargain, but Covid-19 means there’ll be no Cork jersey worn next month, or the month after that, and possibly the month or two after that again.
“Everything was geared towards getting myself right for the Munster semi-final. That’s where my focus has been all year. But right now, it is very tough to go out running by yourself when you are asking yourself, is there going to be a Championship, am I wasting my time here, am I not?
“This is the longest I’ve ever been out of football. It is tough to stay focused, but we have developed a good culture of ownership within the panel. We send our photos into WhatsApp after training each day so there are plenty of ugly selfies gone into the group chat.
“If we do end up coming back, hopefully we will get a month’s grace period because you would need it to get back into the swing of things.”
The shoulder feels solid these past few weeks. That said, he won’t fully know until that first crunching tackle. And unlike Dublin hurler Paul Ryan, Flahive has not yet resorted to incorporating the back garden wheelie bin into a makeshift tackling drill.
“We have three of them so they’d outnumber me. It is very tough to gauge how strong it is because I haven’t done a full team session yet. A lot of my game would be around tackling and defending, and that is obviously very tough to do by yourself. You are trying to think up drills you can do on your own. I am nearly gone to the stage where I am asking the mother to hold the ball in the kitchen and to try and get past me.”
The Cork footballers were on their way back to Division 2 when this pandemic brought the shutters down on the sporting world. Their spring form was a continuation of what they had shown last summer when reaching the last eight for the first time since 2014. The first-year associate at PWC started and finished all six of their championship outings, despite dislocating his shoulder early in the Munster final defeat to Kerry.
“Unless your arm is falling off, you are not coming out of a Munster final. I didn’t train for over a week afterwards. I knew if I pulled up and opted for surgery, my season was over. I didn’t want that. I hadn’t played in Croke Park. We were determined to make the Super 8s. I had to do a lot of rehab to maintain it, but thankfully I got through the championship.
“I was fortunate to also get through the club season. At that stage, I was thinking I won’t actually need to get this done at all. But when we went back with Cork it went again.”
He didn’t travel with the team on match-days during the league. Midweek, though, he made sure to be in and around training. It wasn’t a case of showing face, it was the enjoyment he got from being around the camp.
“You’d miss the banter, the camaraderie.”