No rugby for season fears

No rugby for season fears

13 January 2021

THERE is little prospect of action returning to Ballynahinch Rugby Club this season.

That is the view of club president James Kirk who also believes local sports clubs may struggle to attract fans when action does return.

As the spread of coronavirus intensifies, with infection and hospital admission rates continuing to rise, there seems to be no chance of any imminent return of sport at a grassroots level.

“Life has changed for everyone, it has moved on,” said James. “People have had so many weeks and months now of finding other things to do with their Saturdays that it may become difficult to just change habits back again.”

Ballynahinch usually fields seven adult team, including the firsts who complete in Division 1B of the All-Ireland League. It also youth teams, a ladies XV and a thriving mini rugby section.

There has been no action at the club since October. New showers, installed at a cost of £90,000, have not been used.

“There’s a lot of activity around the club in normal times,” said James. “There’s obviously a lot of travelling to matches to take into account during a season.

“In many ways it is about more than just sport. An 18-year old learns a lot more than just playing rugby when they come into the changing room.

“There are social skills picked up, and moving into that adult world.

“That is something that is great about being a part of our club for those younger players.

“But it becomes a difficult thing to sustain. The reality is, however, that we are actually more financially stable in a way by not playing. We are spending no money at the moment.”

James believes it is difficult to foresee when teams will be able to get back on to the pitch.

“It is certainly hard at this point in time to see that we could get back to playing this season,” he admitted.

“We are working on the basis at the moment that we would be ready for activity, sometime post-Easter.

“To that end, it will be about just trying to get people out on the pitch, back with the ball in hand and letting them get back to enjoying that again just initially.”

However he is under no illusions that it will be a difficult balancing act.

As with nearly all sports, the players have been in competitive action for a long time and there is a risk of injuries if too much is asked of the players too soon. This is particularly the case in such a physically demanding sport as rugby.

“Who knows what we will have when we come back. We could be down on numbers and certainly when you look at the nature of rugby at the All-Ireland League level, injuries are easily picked up. 

“Hopefully many players will just be looking forward to playing and there will be that real appetite to get back to action.”

Before the current lockdown club members were able to use their free time to make improvements around the ground.

“We obviously don’t have that at the moment, due to the current restrictions,” James explained.

“It was great to see how the people benefited from it. They certainly did seem to have their spirits lifted. Our volunteers are a hugely important part of the club, and that has had to be stopped too.

“Hopefully things do improve soon, but I guess we are like everyone and just have to wait and see how things develop with coronavirus.”