Fermanagh’s Aidan Breen on physical and mental strain of Covid-19

‘I went out for a walk one day and you would have swore I ran a marathon’

For every mealtime Rita Breen prepares a tray for her son, the Fermanagh footballer Aidan, leaves it on the landing outside his bedroom, knocks the door lightly, and walks away.

As someone who works providing home help for the elderly in the community, she along with husband Jamesie have to isolate themselves in the Tempo countryside as Aidan recovers from the Covid-19 infection that made its way through the Fermanagh panel since a collective training session on October 2nd.

Inside the bedroom, Aidan Breen has not found any of this easy. And yet, if Fermanagh's appeal for a postponement of this Sunday's league meeting in Ennis against Clare is turned down by the Competitions Control Committee, he will be deemed fit to play for his county in a must-win game, Fermanagh teetering on the brink of relegation.

“I went for a test on Sunday morning [October 3rd] for two reasons,” he explains.

“There was a bit of a cluster with the few boys in the team and then in Tempo there was a bit of an outbreak. There was one in a local shop and I had been in the shop on the Saturday.

“I suppose the fact I am living with my parents, two people who would be high risk, I said I was going to just go to get tested.

“I felt the test was precautionary because I didn’t feel I was in close contact. Luckily, the result came back on the Monday morning early, around 7am.”

At the time, he was about to head through the door for his work as an electrician. He wasn’t feeling the slightest symptom. He contacted his parents and other family and they all instantly began isolating.

He hasn’t found the transition that easy.

“You could be sort of paranoid about it. You hear the rumour mill, stories going around, that my parents had it and they weren’t well. There are people actually texting me about it and a couple of phonecalls to the house,” he said.

“There were more rumours that another lad over the road had it, a player, and he was hospitalised. Again it wasn’t true but a lot of that stuff is going on and you are sitting at home. Your head is away with it.”

The physical symptoms soon arrived.

“I had no energy, I had a sore head. I felt very breathless. I went out for a walk one day and you would have swore I ran a marathon. I was caught for breath and had to pull the pin. My legs were like jelly.”

He felt much better during a light run last weekend, but it is one thing jogging the back roads, another thing playing an intercounty match.

With 17 members of their panel isolating, both the Fermanagh squad, their county board, manager Ryan McMenamin and the GAA are all in exceptionally tricky territory.

“We are not going to get a chance to see what way we are. If I feel all right, do I say, ‘Here, I am ready to go’ and then I am done after five minutes?” asks Breen.

“That day I went for the run on the Wednesday, it was playing on my mind. With all this time on your hands, you are inclined to go into Google and type in long-term effects of Covid. You see all these people who have a reduced lung capacity and you have to turn your phone off. You would depress yourself, nearly.

“I imagine there are a lot of people saying we want it postponed because of the position we are in. Which is fair enough, we are in the position we deserve to be.

“The thing that worries me is that if the GAA do not show a bit of flexibility for the teams that are struggling, there are going to be cases covered up and there are teams who might not be honest.

“Close contacts are a big thing. They will continue to play away and the virus will get out of control. I think the GAA have to be flexible, we have 17 players in isolation and this is just our own example. It’s not us feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.”

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