'In a few days I went from coaching kids to cocooning: that was very unsettling'

'In a few days I went from coaching kids to cocooning: that was very unsettling'

Riverstown's Lauren Murphy stumbles to the ground as she is tackled by Wilton's Zoë Murphy and Ava Ronan during the GE Healthcare CWSSL Senior Women's Premier League match at Pat Bowdren Park. Picture: Howard Crowdy

FOR some, it was just a cancelled game of ball, but for others, it was a massive lifestyle change.

When your week is normally taken up with training and games and it's what you look forward to most, losing that can be very tough.

Pat Bowdren earned the title Mr Wilton for his dedication to the club over the years and has the ground named after him for a reason. He lives and breathes Wilton and without much football this year, he saw how important sport is to so many people's lives.

"I never had an experience like this in all my life," said Bowdren. 

"I do remember as a kid the polio outbreak in the late '50s but this is definitely worse. 

"Being so long without football has had a terrible effect on so many levels. We have been lucky with the sport on the TV though, that certainly has been some consolation."

From the early days of the outbreak of Covid, life changed quickly for Bowdren at one of the busiest times of the season.

"You could certainly write off the year which in general was a disaster. We were playing football at the start a short season, and most of our teams were doing well but the U17 team never had a game which was an awful shame as we were training two nights a week in Bishopstown community school but then everything stopped. 

"Our senior girls got back to training in June played a short season, but with the stop-start scenario it was hard to plan or maintain any form of structure.

"My personal experience I went from going to the pub three nights at weekends where I sing karaoke to not going out at all. For me, this was a huge adjustment as I love to sing and entertain, and apart from football, this was a social aspect where I got to meet many people." 

And all of a sudden he wasn't seeing anybody. 

"In the space of a couple of days I went from coaching kids to play football to cocooning and that was very unsettling. You were being told that you must not go shopping, not have anyone in your home. 

"So I would have been on the pitch five days a week from April and when it stopped, it was very hard to adjust, but somebody said to me one time, 'adapt or perish' so all of a sudden I began watching a lot of box-sets and it certainly has kept me going."

Wilton United official opening of Pat Bowdren Park
Wilton United official opening of Pat Bowdren Park

Everyone is hoping 2021 can see a return to some sort of normality. He is not confident there will be a massive change in the coming months, but he expects people will appreciate the simple things in life, a lot more.

"I just want to make sure that we enjoy the games as much as we can. I don't want to plan for what is still up in the air, so I suppose the lesson will be not to take things for granted but live every day. Getting crowds back to games is going to be a while as it all seems to be going pear-shaped again with the delay in vaccines.

"I can't see stadiums full until September or later. However a positive for me is to see the increased number of kids we had joined the club just before Christmas. 

"Credit to Pat O'Driscoll who does a lot of work with the kids and also ensuring we have training facilities so we hope to have U11, U13, U15, U17 and maybe an U20s team next season."

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Wilton have produced fantastic players over the years and in recent years, they have seen a lot of them move on to play National League. Bowdren says it's a shame they couldn't have stayed at the club to operate at that level.

"We have supplied Cork City with a lot of our players over the years. It certainly is sad to see them leave because of the hard work we've put in and also coupled with the fact are they really moving on playing and developing at a higher level.

"At National League level I think that there's a need for a second division as even with the girls we're losing, we have a lot of players at the moment who would be at that level. What annoys me about the national league is the term 'elite' or in the case of the GAA championship, the girls playing these grades are seen as different.

"I can't understand why kids can spend five hours in school but can't spend 90 minutes out in the air playing football?

"Recently we have seen that a girl cannot play football with Wilton, Passage or Riverstown but someone out in Cork City, Peamount, Shels, all the National League clubs can. 

"The idea of them being an elite player ahead of any other player makes no sense. 

"Let's just hope for a better 2021."

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