Liam Sammon: ‘Social distancing will be there until we get a vaccine’

Liam Sammon’s version of cocooning has been of the uptempo variety. Not content with cutting hedges and painting fences, the 73-year-old retired PE teacher has designed a circuit training workout which runs from his Salthill home out into the back garden. It has, explains the 1966 All-Ireland football winner, a bit of everything. There are exercise bands at various stations which have to be pulle
Liam Sammon: ‘Social distancing will be there until we get a vaccine’
Liam Sammon: I wouldn’t start anything until the players felt comfortable.
Liam Sammon: I wouldn’t start anything until the players felt comfortable.

Liam Sammon’s version of cocooning has been of the uptempo variety.

Not content with cutting hedges and painting fences, the 73-year-old retired PE teacher has designed a circuit training workout which runs from his Salthill home out into the back garden.

It has, explains the 1966 All-Ireland football winner, a bit of everything.

There are exercise bands at various stations which have to be pulled and stretched this way and that. Step-ups are demanded at another station. And, just for good measure, there’s a bit of confined jogging thrown in.

From start to finish, it takes him half an hour.

So, how many times a week would he tackle his makeshift circuit?

“We do it every day.”

We?

“Myself and my wife Rosaleen.”

By God. They sound like the picture of good health.

But hold on, there's more.

Zoom calls to their grandchildren in Doha, France, and Gretton, England have been almost as frequent as their daily workouts, and in the virtual company of grandkids Niamh, Ellie, and Rory in Gretton there are two further weekly sessions.

“We do an exercise zoom with them twice a week for about 40 minutes each time,” says Sammon.

“They design all the exercises we do. There'd be all types of different exercises, you'd never know what is coming.

“There'd be press-ups, planks, star jumps, you name it. But no session is ever the same. They keep coming up with new ones.

"It is all challenging, but at the same time such great fun. The grandchildren are wonderful.”

Given the extent to which he kept mind and body occupied these past couple of weeks, it comes as no surprise to hear him say he did not mind cocooning.

The recent easing of restrictions imposed on the over-70s class has meant he and Rosaleen have been able to get out for a walk or cycle each day along a quieter-than-usual Salthill prom, on top of their back garden endeavours.

“I have kept very busy. If this continues on for too long, I'll get too fit, that'll be my problem,” he chuckles down the other end of the line.

“The weather has made an awful difference. It would be much more difficult this self-isolating or cocooning if the weather was bad.

“On the other hand, you have to feel for people who are in an apartment where they might not be able to get out. That must have been very difficult for people.

“Personally, I didn't mind the cocooning. Now, I miss socialising. You'd miss meeting your friends and I miss very much the games. I miss those immensely. Particularly at this time of the year, it would be the one thing you'd be looking forward to - going to matches.”

The two-time All-Star and former Galway manager loses himself when talking about the growing expectation which surrounded Pádraic Joyce’s footballers during the spring and the hurlers’ back-to-back league wins over Cork and Tipperary in the fortnight before Croke Park pressed pause on the 2020 inter-county season.

Living just a stone’s throw from Pearse Stadium, he saw both teams in action this year. The hope is that there will be an opportunity to watch them again before the year is out.

“Our footballers were improving in every game and people were really looking forward to seeing how they would go in the championship.

“You'd have to feel sorry for the players and management of all teams, be they club or county. Trying to keep players motivated and for players themselves trying to keep motivated, not knowing when or if they are going to play this year, it must be tough.”

Sammon has followed intently the debate regarding behind-closed-doors action or limited crowds being let through the turnstiles whenever the games do return. But his concern lies with the men and women who’ll have to step inside the whitewash rather than those who may or may not play a watching brief.

“I wouldn't start anything until the players themselves felt comfortable playing and that they weren't being sort of pressurised because others wanted to play. You can understand players not being willing to return this year.

“If you asked me now would I attend a game in a couple of months time, I’d be reticent. But after a couple of months more, probably not. If we get back to a stage of playing games, we'll obviously have moved on a good bit in our behaviour and movement. My own take is that social distancing will be there until we have a vaccine.

“In the meantime, we'll just have to keep watching reruns of games from yesteryear.”

Which he is very much enjoying, mind you.

The 1997 Leinster SFC semi-final replay between Meath and Kildare was one he pointed out as having aged well.

“It was a really good game. It was physical, but you also had a lot of good passing in it as well, even though we are inclined to think all we were doing back then was hoofing the ball up into the air. It was far from that.”

Dalo's GAA Show: Dr Con on cocooning, Ringy and the strikes

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