It's great to see kids back out playing in estates, a return to proper sport is overdue

Full credit to all the coaches and organisations doing online fitness but children and teens need to be playing the actual sports they love
It's great to see kids back out playing in estates, a return to proper sport is overdue

Tadhg Sauvage outside Walsh Park last summer when Waterford should have hosted Tipp in the Munster hurling championship. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

THERE'S no underage training, let alone matches, going on at the moment and little positivity about its return either.

But in the estates around Ballincollig, I've seen children and teens out pucking sliotars, smacking footballs at those flimsy white plastic goalposts, or chucking basketballs through well-worn hoops a lot in recent weeks.

With Covid cases at a low level in Cork, and schools starting to filter back, it was inevitable children and teens would play outdoors in groups again. The simplicity of soccer means it's the sport you'll always see the most of around Leeside and the Collig is no different, though you can gauge an area's hurling health by virtue of how many hurleys are on display.

We've all got our regular routines within our 5k limit. At the other side of my estate, there's a turn on my usual walk where a wide green meets a high pebble-dashed wall and, regardless of the time of day or weather, one of the lads living there is out kicking a ball. He literally has the grass worn down to a muddy patch in one section. That dedication and grá for sport is infectious.

There are numerous examples of such commitment across the country.

While it's encouraging, what would be better was if he was cleared to get back playing soccer formally. What might turn out to be the most fruitful period of his life playing ball is slipping by him and so many others.

We spend so much time fretting about how players will 'develop' that we forget they just want to make the most of what they're at now. 

That applies from U6 all the way to minor.

And what about the less enthusiastic males and females set will drop out completely after their connection to local teams and clubs has been severed for so long? 

Full credit to all the coaches and organisations running Zoom fitness classes but there's no comparison to actually meeting your peers and getting stuck in to the sport you love. 

All data made available shows the transmissibility of Covid isn't an issue in an outdoor setting. Yet there's been no concerted effort from politicians to get kids back training, playing games and just having fun again. 

There's been plenty of noise about World Cup bids though.

Perhaps Kevin Coster is at fault. Since Field of Dreams, a generation of delusional politicians seem to have taken the mantra 'If you build if they will come' to heart.

The actual quote from the beloved baseball-themed movie is 'if you build it, he will come'. Inaccuracy comes with the territory when the topic is building stadia. Or any other mega structures in Ireland.

Recently, in light of an update on the fanciful joint British and Irish World Cup 2030 bid, a Galway representative was harping on about constructing a new 48,000 stadium. Pure nonsense, given there's no demand for what would be a perenially empty arena outside of a World Cup.

It was publicity chasing guff, that would have been easier to laugh off if kids' sport wasn't currently locked down.

There were references to Semple Stadium as a prime location for the tournament and a few, though not many thankfully, pieces on Páirc Uí Chaoimh being an option. 

Action from an empty Páirc Uí Chaoimh when Cork beat Kerry last winter. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Action from an empty Páirc Uí Chaoimh when Cork beat Kerry last winter. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Sure, a World Cup in Ireland would be appealing, but there would be crippling costs with acting as even a joint-host.

In a sporting purgatory where Cork City will host Cobh Ramblers without any fans in Turner's Cross at the end of March, the derby being the only upside from relegation, an influx of supporters from around the globe sounds like a crossover from an alternative timeline. Some Scarlet Witch magic from the Marvel multiverse.

Have no doubt either that venues in Belfast and Dublin are where the action would be focused if, and it's a big if, this UK-Irish World Cup bid is successful. The bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup ended in abject failure with Ireland gaining the fewest votes of the three contenders, though funding for the GAA's revamp of the Páirc came through as part of the process.

The barely functional League of Ireland should be the primary target for all sporting bodies and the government on the soccer front over the next decade. 

With Brexit preventing British clubs from signing talented Irish teens until they turn 18, the pathway has to be through local teams. 


It's a far healthier way for players to develop and there are multiple examples of Cork City and Cobh Ramblers graduates going on to make a mark cross-channel, including Roy Keane.

Would he have been the same player if he was prevented from pulling on the Rockmount jersey or lining out for Cork in the Kennedy Cup in his mid-teens?

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