‘How many cases were there today?’ was the much-feared question of 2020 and if we fast forward one year it remains the topic of most conversations in what we now know as the ‘new norm’.
My name is Dayna Finn, I am 21-years-old and I am from Kiltimagh. I play basketball for the Ireland senior women’s team and football for the Mayo senior ladies team. I am in my final year of studying in the National University of Ireland, Galway.
There is no doubt that our lives have been impacted in various ways by the global pandemic.
It has been a whirlwind of a year for us all and the spread of this coronavirus has meant that what we once knew as day-to-day life has changed dramatically. Personally, and I think I can speak for the vast majority of people, it has been a challenging time for us all, a time one could have never dreamt of.
It was March 2020 and I remember sitting with friends in college having a coffee when came an announcement that shocked us all — university was closing due to Covid-19 which was spreading rapidly across Asia and Europe. I never could have imagined the impact this would have and the changes we were about to face. Time passed and things began to get more serious.
Being an athlete and playing both basketball and football, life up to then was constantly on the go. Whether it be training, games, recovery sessions and of course life outside of sport, it always meant I had to plan and manage my time extremely well. The virus took all this from us in the blink of an eye. Sport was postponed and then cancelled, college closed, teaching began online, retail, bars and restaurants all shut down. Lockdown meant everyone had to stay at home. I can safely say that I now know every pothole within my 5-kilometre radius and have named a few animals along the way too. Running on the road became the daily routine and trying to find a straight stretch of flat was near to impossible when you live in the countryside. Pressing ‘start run’ on my watch and facing the endless hills is something I will never forget.
Although this pandemic was extremely alien to us all, it became a time where we needed to think outside of the box more than ever. Gyms were closed and access to football pitches and basketball courts was prohibited so whilst being confined to my house I had to find a way to improve using limited resources. Luckily, my dad had lots of gym equipment from when he played football in the 1980s that were still in perfect condition. But going from training, playing and competing in a team environment to training individually was tough. I was lucky to have my younger sister Hazel training with me – both of us are extremely competitive, pushing each other to our limits – and our older brother Cillian gymed with us too sometimes. We had programmes to do every day.
Personally, the break from the constant rush of university life and trying to balance both sports was something that was probably needed for the first few weeks of the first lockdown, until news headlines continued to get worse and RTÉ News was suddenly the only channel on TV. As a family, whose lives revolve around sport, this change to a slow-paced form of life with no agenda was something we would have never experienced before. Things like having dinner as a family, playing board games, reminiscing on past memories, going for walks within our 5km radius, catching up with friends from home and of course little bickers here and there became the new norm. It made me reflect on how important family is and to never take for granted the simple things in life. ‘Do you want to go for a walk and get a coffee?’, ‘Who’s cooking the barbecue tonight?’, ‘Will we plan a staycation?’, ‘Are you a close contact?’, were some of the most famous questions asked by us all in the past year.
September came and university life changed. Teaching online began and Zoom calls were the new norm. Adjusting to learning through a screen was hard at first but like everything, you become accustomed to it. No face-to-face contact with lecturers and friends made the social aspect of life extremely hard. Communicating mainly through social media, no dining out with friends and hugs and kisses was all very strange. Zoom calls for football, basketball and quizzes with friends soon began and I can honestly say I am zoomed out!
Luckily during the months of October to December inter-county football resumed and we played a knockout championship. Things were extremely different though; arriving to training ready to go straight onto the pitch, masks on and no supporters for competitive games. I remember a lot of people saying to me that Sunday’s just weren’t the same without any sport to go to but at least during these months people were able to watch, listen and read about the GAA and LGFA games which in itself was a distraction from the crisis consuming our lives.
Masks became an accessory and people started matching them with their outfits, a competition for who could get the coolest mask. Masks were like our phones, they never left our hands, and baking banana bread became everyone’s speciality. Back gardens began to be customised into the local Peter Marks – the 1990 look was back, long hair was the new fade. There were so many unanswered questions and we just wanted to know where Leo Varadkar got his haircut!
From a personal point of view, lockdown gave me a lot of time to reflect and think about things, which was good and bad of course. Those who know me will know I am a woman who loves being on the go and will never sit still. Again, that has its positives and negatives. But what the downtime allowed was for me to reflect on the past and think about the future and my long-term goals. Without a shadow of a doubt, it has been the most challenging year to date. Losing my granny in the first few weeks added to the difficulties we were facing both individually and as a country. Mental health is a huge issue in the world today and more than ever people have been alone with their thoughts. It is normal to not feel okay and prioritising our health is vital.
Fast-forward to three weeks ago however, April 2021, and football and basketball were given the green light to resume at elite level. The excitement was surreal. It is great being back with the girls, a team environment and back training for competitive games and competitions. Things are improving, vaccines are on the role out and normality is returning slowly.
The past year has been a crazy time for us all I am sure many of you have experienced ups and downs and have taken positives and negatives from what we know now as something we may have to live with.
I hope my own trip down memory lane has allowed you to also reflect on some of the positives that we can take from our Covid-19 experience. Thankfully, a lot of the bad that has come has been countered by a lot of good and we all have to remember the commitment and courage displayed by all our frontline workers who have risked and continue to risk their own health for the betterment of others.
Remember, we are all in the same boat and there are most definitely brighter days ahead. The most important thing for us all is stay safe, healthy, positive, motivated and continue to help those that may be in more vulnerable circumstances.