Social media feeds were a tough watch yesterday; the sight of kitted out golfers across the UK enjoying the spring sunshine while the rest of us did laps of the local park in the hope that Ireland will follow suit.
There’s been a major easing of England’s restrictions with team sports set to resume on Monday as well as friends and family being permitted to meet outdoors in groups of up to six from two households.
Ireland will learn its fate later today [Tuesday] but anyone expecting the reins to be loosened significantly will likely be in for a shock after Nphet recommended a “very cautious” approach to any potential easing of restrictions by Government.
With the Easter holidays in full swing, there is a reluctance to give anything the green light, let alone golf, with a staged easing of restrictions preferred, likely meaning the earliest realistic date for golf’s return in the ROI is April 12th.
That will come as another bitter blow to the industry and a nation of golfers who have been denied access to their courses for the best part of six months – the longest shutdown anywhere on Earth.
Why have they been closed for such an extended period of time? Well, the germaphobes at Nphet HQ will tell you that there’s a global pandemic that renders no activity safe, but I wonder how many of them teed up last May for a game of golf and thought ‘jaysus, I don’t think I’ll come out of this round alive’?
I think back on that glorious May day where I booked my tee-time online, hopped in my car, drove to the golf club with the windows up, changed my shoes in the carpark and arrived on the first tee to find my two other playing partners in a 200-plus acre field. For the rest of the day, I didn’t see a group ahead of me, or behind me. I didn’t tough a flag, there were no rakes in the bunkers, there was no danger of getting sick. I hopped in my car after the round and drove home, a healthy and happy man of both mind and body.
The next day I went to the Phoenix Park and I thought I’d missed the memo about the Pope visiting.
Now, I understand that there’s an obligation to be balanced as a journalist, to try and take your own opinion out of it and be impartial, and maybe it’s the Covid-fatigue talking or the growing pain in my hole but I’m struggling for impartiality on this one. The way I see it, there’s millions of Irish people sitting on one side of a seesaw losing the will to live in their efforts to preserve life, and there’s a few supposed leaders at the other end with their feet dangling and their heads firmly caught in the clouds after fumbling the response to this pandemic for over a year now.
So yeah, it’s hard to be impartial, harder still to keep the faith, particularly when a few minor exceptions to lockdown restrictions could make the world of difference.
But there’s hope, I think. After all, we pay our politicians handsomely to think critically and broadly. I’ve no doubt that if Nphet were in charge, we’d remain in level 5 for the rest of this year and beyond. But they’re not in charge, and tonight the Government have a chance to restore the faith. That doesn’t mean signing off on a reckless free-for-all, rather evaluating the merits of certain pursuits over others and not lumping everything together in this relentless punishment of a population that deserves better.