Orla's road to Poland!!

Goodness! It’s been five months since my first blog, just before Christmas! Where to start?
What’s been happening? Has my Road to Poland just become significantly longer? I believe so!

Despite some initial sad (and oftentimes VERY dramatic) reactions, from myself only….. I am now choosing to see everything as incredible opportunities. Allow me to elaborate….

In January this year, I’d been quite ill (I’ve since tested positive for ANA, which is some sort of
autoimmune disorder, yet to be fully labelled – could it be Lupus? – in fact I only got the actual results in March….that’s Irish doctors for you… but I digress) Off I went to Oporto to play in my first Grand Prix event, which by the way, was SO VERY WELL run. From start to finish, the tournament was exceptional. When I arrived in Oporto on the Wednesday morning, I was still unsure if I would compete or not. I  could barely last 10 minutes of practice time, and then couldn’t manage the short walk back to the hotel as I was so fatigued. (The taxi driver was NOT happy with me asking him to drop me less than a mile away. Ooopps!).. I forced myself to drink tons of fluids for the next 24 hours, and boy did I sleep a LOT. By Friday morning, and my first match, I was starting to feel a bit better, so decided to play at least my first match, and hope that adrenaline would kick in. Which it did, and I managed to make my way to the final of the Over 45s. (I remember feeling VERY grateful that three of my biggest rivals had opted to play down in the 35s…..). I loved playing against Nina in the final – we had an incredible 5 set battle, and I firmly believe the only reason I won in the fifth, is because I had my British Open win to draw from. I’d been 2/0 down and 8/5 down against a formidable opponent who I’d lost to in Home Internationals two weeks previously, and I remember saying to myself how hard I’d actually worked for the last 18 months to get here, and I wasn’t going down this time. It wasn’t easy, in Oporto, especially as I’d been ill, but I squeaked through purely on mental ability – which I MUST share with you in a later blog. This was a new me. I’d never been so mentally tough. And so, next was going to be Spain. Ah the lovely Jesus and his fantastic tournament in Santiago.

In between, I’d planned a sneaky trip to Poland, to check out the courts for Worlds in August. I drove there with a friend on March 4th , played probably two 5 setters on the three-glass-walled court, loved it, and left feeling pumped for August. My road to Poland was getting shorter and shorter. I hadn’t lost a masters match in 13 months. I was feeling ready. And Spain was next. With a hefty draw too.  And then……just when I’d boarded the plane in Dublin, I got the text. Spanish Masters is cancelled due to Corona Virus Pandemic. At the time, (this was March 10th ), I don’t think any of us truly understood what was really happening. Isn’t it just the flu? Won’t it all be over soon? So I carried onto Spain thinking I’d still get to train and play with the crazy bunch of English nutters who’s whatsapp messages had kept me amused daily…….thousands of them…..per hour!

Alas, practice was not allowed. I was lucky enough to get a sneaky spin session in on Tuesday afternoon, but that was the last of it. No more guests allowed at the club.
And so I’ll fast forward. I flew back to Dublin on Saturday, March 13th , two days before my original flight and I was very lucky to have made that switch, as the airport closed on March 14th . I have not hit a squash ball since March 4th …… in Poland……of all places. How ironic. I know we are all feeling the same emotions. Frustration, confusion, sadness, not to mention how easy it’s become to NOT train……..all the gyms are closed, my knees won’t take to running, and it’s SO much easier to watch Netflix and have a sneaky Magnum after dinner…….oh, and for some reason it feels VERY important to ‘take advantage of this time relax, have a drink!’ (: Well, you know how they say ‘you are what you consume’…….well I’d say it’s safe to say I’m a large bottle of Prosecco loaded with garlic bread and pasta right now…….I’m calling it the COVID-10….come on, you’re all with me aren’t you??? That extra 5 – 10 lbs we’ve just gained? It’s NOT OUR FAULT! (: Actually, I’ve had enough of it!
AND SO, here’s where the good stuff comes in. Yes, I’ve spent the guts of the last 5 – 6 weeks either wallowing, making excuses, feeling sorry for myself, OR, constantly having fantastic excuses to celebrate life and open another bottle of Prosecco! Ha! It’s so easy.
But yesterday, I said “darn it” (I actually DIDN’T say that – those of you who know me will know what I uttered quietly, was something far more colourful). And I contacted my performance coach, who is the main reason I’ve had so much success since January  2019. We talked.  We talked a lot. I told her I felt ‘lost’. My goal was no longer. My purpose wasn’t there anymore. She is very good at drawing things out of me, and after a short 45 minutes, I realised that YES I STILL WANT TO COMPETE IN THE WORLDS NO MATTER WHEN THEY ARE, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, I STILL BELIEVE I CAN WIN IT. Okay okay okay, I hear you all saying ‘eh Orla you’re moving up to the 50’s, with the likes of Andrea Santamaria and Fitzy. Fitzy! (Both are close friends by the way). And YES I AM! And this is NOT an insult to either of them……..It’s merely me finding my fire again. And I know they will love this!
So, I’ll finish this blog on a high note. Ireland won’t open it’s squash courts until late August, early September. SO……(oh did I mention I bought a spin bike – it arrives next week)…..the summer of 2020 is going to be spectacular. It is now presenting me with endless opportunities to work even more on my physicality, AND my mental strength. I’ll be researching some audio books to listen to, as this works best for me. I’ll let you know the books I’ve used so far in my next blog about mental training. I’m going to kill it! And by doing so, I hope Andrea, Fitzy, and anyone else out there, no matter WHAT AGE GROUP you end up playing in…… I hope you all find inspiration to get back at it too. If you haven’t already. Maybe I’m the only one who’s been a lazy bloody eejit! So, calling all MASTERS players. Let’s use Corona to our advantage. Let’s find the silver lining. These are opportunities, not challenges!! To Poland! Whenever that might be!

Orla….