We hope someone remembers to buy teabags on return to rugby!
Proudly hanging in the clubhouse of Mullingar Rugby Club is a letter dating from 1925 written by John Winckworth to Ken Brabazon and the opening line simply states: “I hear that you are keen on a game of rugby”. These are the first forays into the formation of Mullingar Rugby Club and from these humble beginnings the club has grown to its present size, drawing members from Delvin to Milltown and Kilbeggan to Castlepollard.
At the last official count the club has 563 underage players ranging in age from 4 to 17, 78 adult playing members, approximately 70 volunteer members and scores of parent members. When the club was formed and for many years after, its traditional member base would have come from the professional classes (doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, etc).
However, the club now draws members from all walks of life and a vibrant community can be evidenced most weekends, as parents watch the endeavours of their sons and daughters before packing into the clubhouse following games to serve refreshments to players and supporters alike, and discuss the pivotal moments in the match they just watched. Trials and tribulation from the week are exchanged and the events of the day are discussed by young and old.
Things don’t always run smoothly though. Sometimes the referee will forget to appear in time, or the key to one of the dressing rooms will be misplaced, or the multitude of Burcos overload the electrical circuit and the cut-off switch is tripped. The snow will be blowing vertically across the pitch making a game of rugby difficult for all but the hardiest of players, or someone will have neglected to wash the cups after the previous match – the horror!
These are all everyday struggles that we would welcome with open arms as opposed to the current pandemic we face. The coronavirus emergency is unprecedented in the memories of most. The most recent pandemic to hit Europe with such an impact occurred in 1918 following the First World War, when much of the population of Europe was in a state of malnourishment, and you have to go back to 1832 to find another example when cholera reached these shores.
The current pandemic brings many threats, the most pressing of which is the immediate threat to the lives of the vulnerable and elderly in society, at the time of writing the disease has claimed the lives of 12,955 worldwide including 4,825 in Italy alone. The other threat that we are all facing is economic loss, already over 200,000 people have been put on temporary layoff with surely more to follow as companies face empty order books and mounting labour costs over the coming weeks and no certainty as to when things will return to normal.
There is another threat that exists is the threat to our communities and this is perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the pandemic.
Humans are social beings, we like to gather for celebrations, to exercise together, to learn, to listen to music, to exchange information with each other, to pray together and sometimes just to sit in silence and enjoy a quiet drink together. We like to greet each other with a handshake or a hug (or if you are feeling a little more adventurous, a kiss on the cheek). So isolation and social distancing are difficult concepts for humans to adhere to, particularly for long periods, our success as a species has been built on groups of people working together to form lasting relationships and interdependences.
However all is not lost, another key factor in our success has been our ability to co-operate with each other and learn from each other, already groups of scientists all over the world are working to create a vaccine, an Irish group is leading a collaborative effort to develop low cost ventilators and Chinese doctors are passing on the vital information they have learned in their fight against the disease in the past few months.
Human beings are also very adaptable, people are managing to work from home, online school resources are being made available to continue to education of the young, fitness classes are available online, people are getting outside in the fresh air and exercising to cope with confinement and women the world over are finally getting their significant others to get through that long to-do list. Humans are also particularly resilient, and sometimes it is the most difficult circumstances that prompts the greatest innovations and developments to improve our quality of life and advance human kind.
So I am positive that this current pandemic will pass, and when it does those of us that are keen on a game of rugby will once more ramble down to Shay Murtagh Park where the fit and able test their rugby skills against each other. Those of us that are feeling slightly less energetic will be happy to meet old friends, discuss the issues of the day and hope that someone remembered to buy the teabags for a cuppa after the game!
- Tony Doolan, President, Mullingar Rugby Club