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‘Sport for the sake of sport’ — racing gives taste of GAA without crowds

To get a flavour of what live sport and the GAA might be like without crowds, Michael Verney of the Irish Independent joined us from Limerick Racecourse

To get a flavour of what live sport and specifically GAA might be like without crowds, Michael Verney of the Irish Independent spoke to Shane Stapleton from Limerick Racecourse.

Live horse racing returned to Ireland more than a week ago, but we are still a month away from GAA hurling and football teams taking to the fields.

It remains to be seen what medical health advice is given in terms of crowds attending our games, but racing is currently being held behind closed doors.

Michael Verney sampled his first day of action on Wednesday in Limerick, and gave his thoughts on how it felt at the venue.

“It’s interesting, it was interesting even coming here. Usually you’re going to a match or the races and part of it is the excitement, the traffic, knowing you are going to meet people.

“I couldn’t believe it when I could pull up here in the middle of the road and take a picture of the ‘Welcome to Limerick Racecourse’ sign, and it was weird.

“It’s empty and the place is strange. It’s the first time I’ve been at races and all you can hear is the horses galloping, because there’s no one here shouting.

“I’d imagine if you were at a match, you could probably hear people as they’re squaring up. I don’t know, it’s a little bit sterile.

“It’s maybe racing or sport for the sake of sport, more than resembling what it is supposed to be.”

That reality is likely coming down the tracks with GAA club games, and Birr man Verney accepts that it could well take away the magic.

“Yeah, I would feel that. It’s hard to know what to compare it to. Part of going to any sporting event is meeting people, mingling, telling yarns. It’s nothing like that.

“There’s three journalists, three photographers… so I would say it probably does take a bit of the magic away. The atmosphere, there is none.

“(For club games), part of it is going out the tunnel and listening to the roar, which you’re not going to hear at a match now.

“It will feel like a practice match and some people will struggle with the idea of it being important, even though it doesn’t feel like it’s important. That same statute.”

In the first two races of the card, Ballydoyle filly Eden Quay swooped inside the final furlong to score in the fillies maiden, while Soaring Monarch caused a 50/1 upset in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden as the Peter Fahey trained gelding belied his market position to score under jockey Kevin Manning.

Watch the video above for the full discussion, and a brief chat on the club v county debate raging just now.

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