"To a lot of people, playing games is such a small thing. But it's big to you and big to communities" 1 year ago

"To a lot of people, playing games is such a small thing. But it's big to you and big to communities"

They seem like such small things, a game of football and a championship.

To many, worrying about whether they will be played, in the world we now live in, is madness.

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But to people, and to the vast majority of communities all over Ireland, it is as Davy Fitzgerald said last weekend, what they live for. The GAA is the energy, the positivity, it is the beating heart that puts smiles on their faces and gives parishes something to look forward to.

In Kildare, that beating heart has been ripped out. For three weeks now, pitches have been idle and clubs have been motionless.

"You're only upsetting yourself getting worked up about it," says Lilywhite legend Johnny Doyle of the local lockdown.

"I've decided, do you know what, it is what it is. Every day is a day closer to getting back to some bit of normality so that's the way I'm trying to take it.

"To a lot of people that are not involved in GAA, and have suffered family members bereavements and that sort of thing - playing games is such a small thing, and you're conscious of that too when you're giving out about not playing football - but still, while it's not the biggest thing in the greater scheme of things, it's big to you and it's big to communities and for the greater good, it is a big thing."

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In Kildare, time is running out. With schools re-opening and a potential surge in cases on the horizon, frustration is growing.

"Every day, we're getting less and less time to run our club championship. You're going to be overlapping with inter-county soon enough so there is a lot of uncertainty there. Hopefully we'll get out of on the 3rd, but we thought that two weeks ago as well. You just don't know, especially with schools starting back again as well.

"I know there's a lot of anger towards government at the moment and some of it is hard to argue with but they didn't just wake up in the morning and say 'we'll pick on Kildare.' But still, it's just tough, there are so many inconsistencies like. There's businesses here in Kildare closing every day, everybody's pain is different. There's pubs locally around me, they've been doing renovations, investing money. And here we are, still no go, thinking, we probably won't get a Christmas drink in the pub - and that is really tough on people.

"Whatever way it goes, we're going to be in trouble so you nearly go back to the line in Shawshank Redemption 'you get busy living or you get busy dying.' If you're not living you're dying so you have to think, what is the greater good here? There's so much mis-information out there, I saw something that over the last five years - the death rate in each month is way down. You're looking at the normal flu and how many deaths there are in that...it's just so confusing and that's what drives people mad..."

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You'd really feel for the GAA players in Kildare, looking on enviously as those from other counties get to belt away as normal. As for Doyle, he's keeping himself busy, staying as fit as ever at 42.

"I did the marathon last October. Our club did a bit to try and raise a few bob for a young chap in Rathcoffey who was unwell. I like getting out and doing 10K or whatever.

"When I was playing with Kildare, we used to an awful lot of that long distance running, laps with Mick O'Dwyer or five or six miles around the Curragh. And I enjoyed it, I wasn't carrying weight, and it was in my head then that if you had a good engine, you might pop in for an auld score late in the game. It was something I was conscious of in my game, to keep the fitness levels up.

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"Now at this stage, I think it's for my own head more than anything! The body and the head aren't at the same age at the moment! You're trying to prove it to yourself that you're not getting older! Some people are addicted to golf, cycling. I don't really cycle...but my thing has been the running. Sometimes you'd feel sorry for yourself, but you come home and get a shower and you feel really good..."

Coming from a man who hasn't missed a championship game for club or county since 1996, you can take it that this dedication had a huge part to play in that.

"That would have helped me avoid injury too. The fact that you were a bit lighter probably did help with injuries and stuff too! There was certainly a bit of mind over matter too. You obviously couldn't play with bad injuries, but knocks and bruises, I just got on with. Touch wood, it'll keep going! You play every game like it's your last, and my last is coming soon," he laughs.

We'd be willing to bet against that one.

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