I took my last order of wall balls from India some time around 2016.
Tommy Howard and I had a company ‘Daly Wall Ball’, where we used to ship the product in from India, which could take about four months to arrive, writes
The wall ball worked well for us until we got one horrendous batch of 180 dozen.
I was training the Limerick minors one night on the Astroturf wall in Rathkeale when about 10 of the balls just disintegrated.
Some fella on the production line in India probably forgot to do his job properly but, as in any business, one contaminated or damaged supply can do untold damage to the brand.
Like a lot of us, I’ve been spring cleaning over the last week, trying to keep myself occupied as much as using the opportunity to tidy up around the house.
I was clearing out a press when I came across three boxes of wall balls. “I wonder are these the good balls or those yokes which buried us?” I asked myself.
There was only one way to find out.
I rang John ‘Skinny’ Casey, who is involved with me with the Clarecastle U21s.
Skinny’s son Oisín, who is on the team, is one of our best strikers so I got him to test the balls. ‘Let rip with one of them,’ I said.
He did. They were from the good batch.
It sowed a seed in our heads. I had 18 balls so I gave them to Skinny and told him to contact the lads on the U21 panel.
There are over 20 on the squad but ‘Skinny’ gave them a ball each, while any brothers had to share one. Then we set up an individual competition, told the lads to be honest in recording their scores, and promised €50 to the winner.
The clubhouse is locked up. The main pitches are closed but the ball wall is open
‘Greg’s field’, as we call it in Clarecastle, is accessible because it’s out in the open. Lads can go in there and run 20 laps if they want, as long as they do it on their own.
It’s been heartening to see the huge volume of skill challenges going up on social media over the last week.
They are mostly designed to keep kids — and adults — occupied but it’s also an opportunity for everyone to get out in the fresh air and to work on improving different areas of their game.
It’s a strange time.
Social distancing and adhering to proper protocol is the most important thing and, while not being able to mix with people is hard for all of us, you can always find a way to make it work, and keep yourself individually occupied, if you want.
It was different circumstances but I remember training the Dublin hurlers one night a decade ago when the country was enveloped in snow. Dublin was effectively in lockdown because nobody could move but I still made my way up from west Clare.
The closer I got to the capital, the more texts started dropping to declare mass unavailability.
I kept going, pure thick sure. “Anyone who can get to O’Toole Park,” I texted back to the group, “get there.”
Nine showed up and I nearly killed them.
Jim Kilty, our physical trainer at the time was snowed in so I muscled in on his session design and threw Jim’s science out the window.
It was like a reincarnation of Mike Mac in Clare — enough laps and 400 metre runs to murder Mo Farah.
That night, I used the weather and the horrific conditions as an opportunity to build mental strength in the Dublin fellas.
Now, we all need a different level of mental strength, which is why it’s so important for all of us to look after our mental health by keeping ourselves occupied and entertained in whatever way we can.
We have three daughters.
Our eldest, Orlaith, is off college so she’s working part time in Fitzpatrick’s Supermarket in Kilmilhil.
Aoife took a year out after the Leaving Cert so she’s working in the Credit Union in Ennis.
Our youngest, Una, is in Transition Year, so everyone is getting a little break from each other in our house.
It can’t be easy for families when everyone is at home at the same time but it’s also an opportunity for families to spend more time together.
It’s even more important to see that as precious time when many of those families spent so much time apart when everyone was running around in the great rat-race.
It’s more difficult again for young fellas involved in teams, both at club and inter-county level, because everyone is in limbo, not knowing what’s going to happen. We’re supposed to be meeting Kilmaley in the Clare U21 championship but neither ourselves nor the boys out the road know when, or if, it’s ever going to go ahead.
The bigger picture is the only one that matters but it’s still important for everyone to try and stick to the routine as much as possible, even if that routine is individually based.
Everyone just has to find a way to keep doing the right thing.
When I was growing up in Clarecastle, the village was always full of children, noise and life. Our lives were mostly about hurling but we did everything to keep ourselves entertained.
Our place, Madden’s Terrace, used to have gang warfare with Church Drive, the main street and St Joseph’s.
It was such a great way of life that it was always going to be hard to leave Clarecastle. When we got the chance to take over ‘Murty Browne’s’ pub in Tullycrine, and move back, Eilís was worried I might struggle to adapt to a more rural way of life.
I love it back here but the sense of isolation is far more acute now in the current circumstances.
The parks and pitches are silent everywhere, the pub is in darkness now, but we still have to try and find ways to circumvent those isolating conditions in the best way we can.
On Thursday evening, Eilis and the girls went back to Spanish Point for a walk.
On Friday, I took off to Doughmore beach for a stroll.
It’s a huge beach and the place was deserted but we all have to be aware of continuing to do what’s right.
I saw a photo on Twitter of some crowd having a barbecue on the beach in Lahinch. That’s not good enough.
As Simon Coveney said on Friday, if stuff like that needs to be called out, we should call it out.
It might not seem like it now but, in the long run, I think we will come out of this a lot better as a society.
Even though we have to stay apart, this crisis will bring us closer together.
The community spirit already shown has been inspiring.
Our healthcare workers have replaced our sports stars as our local heroes.
Even something as basic as young kids learning so much about hand hygiene will stay with them for the rest of their lives, which in turn will save lives during future flu seasons.
In such troubling times, I take comfort from the great west Clare singer, PJ Murrihy. In his song, I won’t up the ante, PJ sings about not needing to join the great rat-race, and of how nature is such a great leveller.
It’s the simple things now that we crave so much; shaking hands with people, having the craic, talking about sport, dissecting gameplans, training young lads.
Those electric and eternal hurling summer Sundays seem so far away at the moment but whenever they do come back again, we will treasure them even more than we already did.
All we can do in the meantime is keep it safe and simple.
And that can often be something as basic as hammering a ball off the wall on our own.