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St. Brendan’s response to Covid-19

As lockdowns continue to grip Ireland for the third time, The Liberty hears how a Grangegorman GAA club has been affected by the pandemic.

In March last year, the GAA suspended all activities for two weeks in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, with ongoing restrictions, the organisation has had little game time for the past 12 months.

“The third lockdown has been the hardest as it’s been very monotonous compared to the other lockdowns”

Brian Mahon, St. Brendan’s men’s football player

Clubs all over the country have been suffering throughout the pandemic and St. Brendan’s in Grangegorman has been no different.

The club has a somewhat unique historical background: the people who worked at the psychiatric hospital that use to sit on the grounds of Grangegorman also played for the club.

The current, and past lockdowns have been tough on St Brendan’s players and members. “It’s very tough on everyone, but not having an outlet is hard,” says Cian Walsh, the club’s secretary.

The club has been slowly growing at juvenile level, but Walsh says he fears that Covid might stunt this growth.

A St. Brendan’s coach coaching kids – Pre-COVID. Photo courtesy Cian Walsh

However, coaches at this level are keeping the players interested. “the under 14s have a weekly Zoom call to make sure everyone is still with us,” said Walsh.

In January, then GAA president John Horan announced that all games were to be suspended until further review in April. The Camogie and Ladies Gaelic Football association followed suit.

“I was really hopefully that we’d be back in March,” says Sophie Freeman, a nurse, who was very involved as a footballer in St. Brendan’s before the lockdown, training three times a week.

Freeman says that she was really disappointed and that she wishes they could even go back in small pods like they did during the summer.

St. Brendan’s Ladies football team.

“We haven’t been doing too many Zoom training sessions, but our manager would send us runs to do,” she says.

Men’s footballer Brian Mahon said that “the third lockdown has been the hardest as it’s been very monotonous compared to the other lockdowns”.

Mahon joined the club in January 2020 to socialise, but said it was good to get back and playing football especially during the summer “the moment training was back I was there”.

The coaches tried to keep training going for as long as possible before Christmas, as it was known that the likelihood of returning in January was slim.

“We’ve signed up for PT Distinction” – an online training platform – “because it’s the only thing we can do at the moment,” says Mahon.

Colm Harte said lockdown had been the same for him as it has everyone else. “It’s been very boring, but I’m lucky my job hasn’t been affected.”

Before lockdown, sport was huge for Harte, as he was doing pre-season and would have had “the odd game on the weekend”.

His team adapted by doing stuff through Zoom as they did not know how long lockdown was going to last but that“we were all optimistic at the start”.

When it became clear that GAA wouldn’t be back last spring, he says, people started to drop off. However, once last summer came around, they picked up again. Harte admits that it has been hard this year to keep team morale up.

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