By Oisín Bradley
An NUI Galway lecturer has been using his time productively during lockdown, as he has been to the forefront in compiling a study on the impact of Covid-19 and the first lockdown on Gaelic Games.
Dr Seán Crosson, who is the Co-Director of the Sports Journalism MA Programme in the university, compiled the body of work titled ‘“This Too Shall Pass”: Gaelic Games, Irish Media, and the Covid-19 Lockdown in Ireland’ along with University of Limerick lecturer Doctor Marcus Free.
The study is included in a new collection, ‘Time Out: National Perspectives on Sport and the Covid-19 Lockdown which examines the impact of Covid-19 on sport across a broad range of themes.
The collection of work will examine how all forms of media coverage of sport have been affected by the virus in the period between March 12th, when the initial lockdown restrictions were announced by the government, until May 10th, when RTÉ broadcast their first episode of ‘The Sunday Game’ over 150 days into the year.
Understandably, there was a momentous shift in the tone and content of the coverage of gaelic football, hurling, camogie and handball due to the pandemic, and this is one of a plethora of subjects which the pair have taken a deep dive into in the paper.
Dr Seán Crosson from NUI Galway’s Huston School of Film and Digital Media and leader of the Sport and Exercise Research Group in the Moore Institute, highlighted the importance of amateur sports within Irish society,
“As amateur sports that dominate the Irish sporting calendar each year, typically attracting the largest attendances and occupying a key role within communities, Gaelic games provide a unique focus in a collection such as this.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of sports’ organisations and sport media in facilitating and encouraging responses at local and national level to the challenges Covid-19 has brought.” he said.
Dr Crossan also noted the “unique role” the GAA played in bringing society together during the period,
“In the Irish context, the rhetoric of shared sacrifice and collective discipline that was evident during the early months of the Covid-19 crisis signifies the GAA’s unique role as an amateur organization touching every part of Irish society through its players’, administrators’, volunteers’, and supporters’, family and social connections.”
Naturally, the pandemic brought about the cessation and absence of the ongoing gaelic games calendar at a time when the Allianz Leagues were nearing their natural conclusion and the wheels were already in motion regarding looking towards the Championship. With the entire machine stopped dead in its tracks, focus quickly turned to the past, with classic games and iconic players from yesteryear gracing our screens.
Apart from retrospection, the authors identify two prominent themes that dominated Gaelic games coverage in this time period.
The first issue which the pair honed in on was the consequences for the GAA from the top to the bottom, from the members to the athletes and both the local and national sports media. Secondly, the role of the GAA in their response to the crisis was explored, and how their core philosophies and methods of overcoming the virus, within their own remits and the wider society transpired.
The collection was edited by Jörg Krieger, April Henning, Paul Dimeo, and Lindsay Parks Pieper, and was published by leading international academic publisher Common Ground.
Further information on the collection and Dr Crossan’s and Dr Free’s chapter is available online, where copies of the book can also be purchased.