The main stand at Limerick Racecourse
ONE of the benefits of the job since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the ability to attend sporting fixtures as journalists re deemed essential workers.
Obviously over the last couple of months the number of sporting fixtures actually taking place has reduced significantly. Right now, Munster Rugby is the only sports team based locally which is playing competitive fixtures.
Therefore, over the Christmas period and with Munster's scheduled Guinness PRO14 fixture with Leinster at Thomond Park on St Stephen's Day postponed, it was great to be able to attend the Limerick Christmas Racing Festival as a working journalist.
The four-day National Hunt racing bonanza staged at Greenmount Park traditionally attracts crowds of more than 40,000. The event is traditionally one of the real highlights of the local sporting and social calendar over Christmas.
However, obviously as a result of the on-going pandemic the 2020 Limerick Christmas Racing Festival was staged behind-closed-doors. It was an eerily quiet experience.
No need to worry about getting stuck in traffic on the way to the track or long queues to gain admission.
Health screening needed to be completed in advance, as you would expect, and once you've arrived at the track there are protocols in place which members of the media must observe.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the day was watching the races taking place in a near empty stand in the company of the horses trainers and stable staff. You get up close to people who eat, sleep and breathe horse racing and these horses in particular.
Competing at Christmas at Limerick had been on their agenda for weeks and months. They have the horses in the peak of condition to run. They live every stride their horse takes, hold their breathe at every jump of a hurdle or fence.
And then there is the single cheer, sometimes feint, as the winner passes the post. Discreet yes, but audible. Winner alright!