On St Patrick's Day 2020, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that Ireland was locking down. The Coronavirus pandemic had arrived. Our lives, purpose and favourite pastime as Irish people - meeting each other - stopped overnight.
But throughout that dark time, the GAA was at the epicentre of the country's fightback against Covid-19. 20,000 volunteers helped out 35,000 vulnerable neighbours and friends with food and medicine deliveries during lockdown. Croke Park and other major stadia transformed into testing centres, the Association went online to keep people connected and the GAA became a beacon of hope.
This is the incredible story of how the GAA and its people managed to endure this deepest of struggles and re-emerge to fight another day. As the Association itself faced financial ruin, its members had their own life and death struggles to contend with. Great people were lost. Members endured serious illness. Niall Murphy, a blueblood of Antrim GAA, spent 16 days in a coma in intensive care as he battled the virus. Camogie player Marianne Walsh was diagnosed with cancer and spent her recovery amid intense lockdowns, all the time dreaming of one day playing for her club again. Domhnall Nugent, one of Ulster's finest hurlers, was recovering from addiction having found himself homeless, and spent much of the Covid years isolated - a nightmare scenario for anyone recovering from such an illness. And when the club championship was shut down after celebrations went too far and threatened to damage the organisation's reputation, no one knew what the future would hold for the GAA.
There were trials and tribulations during those times, but there were countless chronicles of resilience and accomplishment too. When GAA people needed each other, they rallied. Their stories, and the story of the GAA itself, now need to be told.