The rollercoaster that has been the Pro 14 season has come to an end, and it has had the ups and downs that go with that description. From not knowing would it go ahead at all, to that first player running out to an empty stadium, the brief glimpse of what that return of crowds could look like, followed by the cancelling of matches. It’s been tough on all of us. Those of us who are away from family and friends, those of us that have lost jobs, those who have lost more than that and haven’t had the comfort of community. So to have rugby as a constant has been a thankful respite from the monotonous and dreary life that endless lockdowns has brought.
To be able to break the week up just because a game is on has helped put structure on the chaos, it’s breathed life into a stagnant time, well in my life anyway. And with every day blurring into the next even that semblance of structure no matter how small can help kickstart a feeling of routine and normalcy. Instead of waking up, picking out a jersey, putting the thick socks on, making sure I have my “good” jacket ready, and making sure all my bits for my fancams are charged and ready to go when planning a trip to Galway to watch a match. I now wake up and pick out the jersey, plan my day on how to make sure I am ready to sit down and not miss one bit of action.
That plan to spend that couple of hours with my team, is as important now as ever. I might not have the match day experience, and that connection of being in a crowd. But, I know I am connecting with so many people sitting on their couches wherever that may be.
With that said I would like to say thank you to Connacht Rugby, its management and its players, for all their work they have put in this season so far. Being a rugby player is tough at the best of times, the amount of training and matches must take its toll physically and mentally. I know people will say well that’s what players sign up for, and maybe it is.
But that mental boost of having a crowd cheer you on is gone. That spark in a game that can lift the easing of the aches and pains of heavy hits, that can help lift the head when things aren’t going your way. To be replaced with TV crew chatter, cars driving by stadia, and 2 sub benches trying to be thousands strong. It’s just not the same, it’s not what brought anyone to the game.
Thank you for your sacrifices to entertain me and others, for reducing your contacts so I could connect with others over a shared experience. Thank you for the effort that you all put in week in week out. It doesn’t go unrecognised, and the sooner we can show you in person the better.
With that all said I would like to apologise to every player, as unknown to them I have done something that is plain unfair. I have hung my potential happiness on their shoulders and their successes. That hope for something better starts on the morning of a game day and builds to kick-off. And hangs in the balance with every carry, tackle, penalty, and try all the way up to that final whistle.
I feel wins and losses, week in week out, season after season, the emotion of games and results is always there, but this season they have meant so much more. As I sit and watch through a game hoping for a win I’m hoping and wishing for so much more. I am hoping for a boost to make the next few days that bit easier, to put a pep in my step that might have been missing. Long gone is the escape from the real world that a match used to be, but now in this warped universe we are living in they have real world impacts. That is a burden no one should have to bear, no group or individual should be responsible for my happiness. But I have put that on Connacht subconsciously so I apologise.
I can only try to let that not be the case going forward. I have tried not to let that disappointment show in anything I put out as I have a simple personal rule, if I couldn’t say it to a player or their families directly then I don’t write it down. I can only hope that I have done that to the best of my abilities.
The season isn’t over, Connacht have many tests ahead. And we have hopefully a lot of matches to sit down watch, to panic over, and hopefully celebrate. But as we have an opportunity to take a breath for a moment I just felt it was important to put down some thoughts. If people feel the same way, remember you are not alone.
To live and die in those 80 minutes is tempting right now but just as the players and staff try to, we also have to try to walk away from a match taking away what we can, enjoying the experience but not depending on it for energy and emotion.
The 2nd Row