CALLING a halt to the club rugby season was the correct decision.
However, there were always going to be some very disappointed clubs, players and coaches.
For some, the decision was a God-send as they were looking relegation straight in the face; others were cursing their luck as they were striving for promotion. More had their sights decisively focused on having medals placed over their heads.
For clubs like Highfield, Old Christians, Cork Con and many others the news came as a bitter pill to swallow. While there were many alternative dates and arrangements sent forward in anger, the concerns for the nation’s safety were always going to win on this occasion.
As normal Cork Con were flying high and had the Bateman Cup final and the AIL play-offs to look forward to.
Unbeaten in all competitions throughout the year, the news would have been acknowledged with much sorrow by the Temple Hill-based club who have worked vigorously both on and off the field to combat the pressures placed on them by the professional game.
Despite Munster deciding to place their training centre in Limerick in 2017, Con have devised a process that allows their players to remain in the shop window to become professional athletes whilst still successfully playing at the highest level in the AIL.
They are the envy of all amateur clubs on the island and the work ethic that flows through the dressing rooms is a credit to all involved.
The men from Woodleigh Park were on the brink of promotion to the All-Ireland League top-flight, with a nine-point cushion at the summit of Division 1B and just four rounds remaining.
In my opinion, Highfield are the sleeping giants of Cork rugby however, they so badly needed that first division ticket to take the next step.
With so many great clubs in the county of Cork, the scramble for the best players is always a bitter fight and with Con and UCC who are now assured of first division rugby next year. The requirement to play top-flight rugby is a priority for those who aspire of playing the game to earn a crust.
To have reached this point, Highfield had to go through some turbulent years and it is a crying shame that they will not receive the reward they genuinely deserve. Hopefully, their ambitions will be recognised next season and their status in Division 1A will become the norm after that.
In the junior ranks Old Christians, Muskerry and Kanturk were heading up the second division of the Munster Junior League and they also have to deal with the unfortunate cancellations.
Old Christians who were topping the table will be especially gutted.
With only two games remaining the club who I started my playing days with had worked just as hard as any senior side and the momentum they had gained under their new coach, Cork legend Ken O’Connell, is now motionless.
Like Highfield and Cork Con, Old Christians have magnificent facilities at their disposal and because of this, they have the foundations to become a major player in Cork rugby over the next few years.
Hopefully, they will be able to get the stone turning again next season and pick up where they left off, however, as any coach in any sport will tell you there are so many occurrences that need to happen to have a successful season.
Player retention is always first and foremost for all clubs and if a club like Old Christians lose two or three key players it can have a devastating effect on the team.
Then there are the school players who normally only have one shot at winning a Schools Senior Cup medal.
This year CBC were due to meet with their dearest and nearest rivals, PBC, but just like all the other rugby players in the country their hopes and dreams are now shattered.
Many of these students will never again get the opportunity to don their school colours and if this is not sad enough, others will just hang up their boots as they look to make the most of their adult lives.
The number of students who play rugby in school and continue after they leave is something the IRFU have been trying to increase for decades, but with little success.
For some, they have just had enough and the rugby lustre that shone so brightly in their teenage years just becomes dull and tarnished. Others want to concentrate on their third level education and more look at the other sporting options that are available to them.
This is unfortunate because playing numbers are the key to all governing bodies remaining strong.
To understand the efforts that go into preparing a side to compete in a school’s cup final you really need to speak to one of the coaches, the players or the parents.
To say it becomes obsessive in their quest for glory is probably doing their efforts an injustice and to have all their hard work go up in smoke is so, so cruel.
There are no words that can describe the emotions these young and very impressionable kids are going through, however, if they can somehow see beyond the blinding disappointment that this virus has cast upon them, they will look back in time and become stronger humans because of it.
This is going to be a very difficult time for all sports and it is imperative that everyone gets back to whatever it is they do for recreation as soon as they can. I don’t care if it is walking the dog, playing bridge or competing at the Everest of your chosen activity.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to do nothing and the day you realise this will be the day you become a stronger individual.
Be clever with your downtime and be ready to go when the whistle is sounded. Regards to all.