Dublin hurler Liam Rushe says this season is a “bonus year” given how unlikely GAA inter-county games were just a couple of months ago.
“You were kind of resigned to not having a championship, and to arranging your life differently as a result. So having a championship is like having a bonus year.
“A lot of people were resigned to not having a championship, and even though we have firm dates for the games now, realistically that could still change if there were a second outbreak. I see some people saying we could have a second lockdown come flu season, so nothing is absolutely definite.
“But this is all you can hope for in such uncertain times.”
There’s been some debate about winter hurling suiting some counties more than others. Rushe, who’s featuring on GAA Cúl Camps on TG4, feels playing surfaces are a significant factor.
“There can be a disparity between Walsh Cup games and league games and the championship, and a lot of that does come down to pitches.
"We had three league games this year and all three were played under different storm warnings. You can end up playing games on pitches that are older and not sand-based, and going forward, if so much of the season is played in the spring months, then the GAA might want to look at serious investment in pitches rather than stands.
“Otherwise the disparity between league and championship hurling will remain.
“On the other hand, if all Leinster championship games are played in Croke Park this year then it’s a level playing field.
“It’s almost like playing on astroturf, because even in winter the surface there is hard and fast.”
Rushe expects club games will sharpen inter-county players: “Inter-county players will be coming off a club championship, and while usually county players go back into the club games after the county games, this time around the club games are played first.
“Then there’ll be a few weeks of tactical and technical preparation before the inter-county championships.
“Because of that I’d expect players to be sharp and the standard of play to be an awful lot better than it usually is in winter, when the emphasis is on physical preparation and strength and conditioning.”
For his own part he’s happy to be back training.
“Very happy — the lockdown made people appreciate training and games all the more, didn’t it?
“We went back training with the club the first evening we were allowed to, and I saw lads there who hadn’t been there in years. Ordinarily you’d be badgering them to get out but when it’s taken away all of a sudden they’re mad to play.
“I suppose when it’s taken away it makes you realise what you enjoy most.”
Is he happy to go back playing?
“I am, I’m personally not in the at-risk group, within our family we’re prepared for socially-distant relationships for the foreseeable like everyone else — at least until there’s some kind of vaccine.”
In general Rushe “wasn’t too bad” during the lockdown, adding: “There’s a canal beside me, a nice cycle and walkway, and the Phoenix Park is within 2km of me, so I was lucky — I had a lot of good outdoor amenities I could get to.
“The first four weeks of it I saw as a good opportunity for me because I was coming back after rehabbing from surgery in November.
“The league kind of passed me by, so with the first news of games being cancelled I was thinking, ‘great, this a four-week block where I can get fit and sharpen the touch.’
“Collective training was gone but you could puck around - and then the 2km quarantine came in and everything went on the back burner.
“I was able to puck around in the public park, take shots and so on, just to keep ticking over, but it wouldn’t get you ready for a county championship or anything.
“As it continued on, and John Horan announced that there might not even be a championship . . . well, the focus turned a bit more towards golf around then, so it’s great to have it back.
“I’d be fairly driven but my motivation was waning when it looked like there mightn’t be a championship at all.”
*GAA Cúl Camps are on TG4 Mon-Fri @ 10:25 and repeated with English subtitles at 5:15. For information on Kelloggs GAA Cúl Camps log onto kelloggsculcamps.gaa.ie