Shane McGrath: In these unprecedented times, hope truly is the best of things

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”
Shane McGrath: In these unprecedented times, hope truly is the best of things
ShaneMcGrath: "There is so much going on in our world right now that many may feel that sport - for me that’s the GAA - isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things but as a man once said , 'To GAA people, the GAA is the scheme of things.'"

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

Never more than now have these lyrics been so fitting. The year is 1970. Joni Mitchell pens the above lyrics in her song Big Yellow Taxi.

Cork are the All-Ireland hurling champions and Kerry beat Meath to bring Sam back to the Kingdom.

Fifty years on and not a single person who played a part in, listened to, watched or attended those games, or Joni herself, could have foreseen what has happened to our world now.

No family visits, no shaking hands, so many out of work, and no sport of any kind.

It’s not World War III in physical or violent terms but maybe unknown to us we are in the midst of our modern-day World War.

So, what now? I’m drawn to a quote from possibly the most favoured film in GAA player profiles for decades, The Shawshank Redemption.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.”

It’s a great quote and something I feel we must cling to during these times.

There is so much going on in our world right now that many may feel that sport — for me that’s the GAA — isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things but as a man once said: “To GAA people, the GAA is the scheme of things.”

Our recent spell of fabulous weather further drives that urge to get back playing sport, everyone out on their lawns, in the fields around their homes all thinking: “God, I’d love to be training this evening.”

When we get back and we will get back, if you’re asked to run 30 laps backwards and blindfolded, you’ll do it with a smile on your face!

But to get back to our friend Andy Dufresne from Shawshank, hope is what we have right now.

Hope that we will get back, hope that we can meet all our family and friends in our clubs, hope that we’ll be able to do battle against our neighbouring parishes, clubs, and counties someday soon again.

Hope that we’ll be able to get a ball back from a human and not a wall. But how will we get there?

When the time comes, how will we police the crowds? How many of our stadia could fulfil these requirements of social distancing?

A scenario as such arises: Seamus Callanan has taken ill, it’s three days before their Championship game against Limerick, do Tipp have to play that game without their star man? How many more of the Tipp squad now cannot play that game due to possible infection?

There are so many questions but realistically nobody has the answers right now.

Matches behind closed doors is a suggestion being touted. It’s not for me.

It would mean a challenge match feel to the game — but even challenge games have a crowd at them. It would merely give an A v B panel game feel to the whole event.

Anyone who has played in one of these will know it’s intense and the effort is clear, but the feel just isn’t right. It’s like washing your feet with your socks on!

For me, wait longer, give me the buzz of that crowd over an empty Croker or Semple. If that means a longer wait than so be it. Good things come to those who wait.

Let’s remember the club here now too. Those who don our county colours and represent us all so proudly on the national stage make up only 2% of our players in the country. The club player makes up the rest.

If we are not permitted to follow our county players in our droves than let’s hope we can get the clubs up and going again. Players want to play.

Maybe the county will have to follow the club scene this year and I’ve no doubt there would be little or no objection from county managers nationwide.

So when we see a slow and steady return to play (and if it must be taken step by step) let’s put the club step first and when we reach the top what a view it will be to witness our county heroes battle it out in knockout games, and clash for what will probably be the most historic All-Ireland title we are likely to see in our lifetime.

I’m drawn to the seanfhocail ‘ní neart go cur le chéile’ - without unity there is no strength. Together we are stronger. Sport is what brings so many together.

So, remember Andy Dufresne’s words of wisdom about the importance of hope.

I wait. I hope.

-Shane McGrath is a former Tipperary captain

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