In this week’s Kerry’s Eye sports supplement, we celebrate the return to sport in Kerry, with a 4-page special (see pages 4-7), after 10 weeks of lockdown due to the coronavirus.
Thousands of people across Kerry took to the fairways, courts, running tracks and water as part of Phase One of the Government’s roadmap for reopening society and businesses in Ireland.
We caught up with Tralee Tennis Club’s John Hennessy who is confident that tennis is one sport that will be possible in spite of the current Government measures on social distancing. “All the guidelines are there for social distancing to be observed and the clubhouse will be closed but the four playing courts will all be in operation. Tennis will be a relatively safe sport once everyone follows the advice given,” Hennessy said.
Golf courses all around Kerry have been welcoming members back to the fairways after a 10-week gap and Killarney Gents Golf captain Harry O’Neill was delighted to be back playing the sport that he loves.
There is a growing feeling that we might not see any inter-county Championship activity until 2021 at the very earliest. GAA President John Horan’s dramatic declaration that we are unlikely to see any GAA action without social distancing has hit players and managers like a bolt to their hearts.
Horan said on The Sunday Game recently: “I can’t see it happening to be quite honest. If social distancing is a priority to deal with this pandemic, I don’t know how we can play a contact sport. That is what Gaelic games is. It is a contact sport. When you look at the level of contact in sports, scrums in rugby are probably at a different level. But I don’t think to say our games are non-contact is correct, no.”
While people generally greeted Horan’s initial clarification as a positive, due to the fact that we needed some clarity from the GAA, as time has gone on, the grass roots are becoming restless, especially the players.
Privately, the feedback that I received from a number of close friends who are currently playing and managing in the game at every level here in Kerry and also in neighbouring counties has been far from positive.
While a lot of its reopening criteria is the same as golf, those who enjoy a game of Pitch & Putt will have some new experiences from this week onwards as County Chairman James Dignan of Castleisland explains.
“Booking tee-times and keeping track of everyone who has played on the course will be new experiences for some of our clubs but they are necessary measures for the times we live in,” the Kerry Pitch & Putt chairman said.
The six affiliated clubs to Pitch & Putt Ireland in the Kerry County Board region, Deerpark and the Gleneagle in Killarney, Castleisland, Tralee, Listowel and Newmarket in Cork reopened to their members on Monday as the lockdown came somewhat as a ‘blessing in disguise’ for course preparation. “March and April are two key months for preparing courses particularly for aeration and with our clubs made up of voluntary Grounds Committees, it is not always easy to get the condition of our courses right. The amount of work courses have been able to do without any play on them is phenomenal and the members in our clubs really will appreciate the work that has been done this week when they start back playing,” James explained.