Finlay Bealham is speaking from his girlfriend’s house in Claregalway.
The small town about 10km north of Galway City is proving to be somewhat of a refuge for the 28-year-old as he and the rest of the country remain low in what are unprecedented and often, frightening times.
All professional rugby players in the country are currently on lockdown while they continue to do their best with maintaining their fitness and strength in the increasingly unlikely scenario that the season may resume at some point over the summer.
However, for Bealham, things are a little bit more problematic.
He suffered a serious ankle fracture in February against Edinburgh at Murrayfield which required surgery. A potential comeback date was pencilled in for the clash Munster at Thomond Park in May. Although that fixture will not take place on its original scheduled date, the Canberra-born prop is progressing well with his rehabilitation, although being on lockdown has made the process a little bit more difficult.
“It’s obviously not ideal but I’ve been very lucky that we have such a great medical and strength & conditioning team at Connacht,” Bealham tells Pundit Arena.
“Garrett Coughlan who is looking after me, he’s on FaceTime to me every day. We’re kind of going through all the rehab from his house and my house. He’s given me a few little bits of equipment to help me with my rehab. So, I’m really lucky in that regard.
“But with all going on, that they’re still there, they care about my rehab, they haven’t forgotten about me anyway,” he laughs.
“I’m really thankful for that. It’s obviously a challenge for everything that is going on. It’s just one of those things. I’ve got some great people helping me and looking after me.”
Bealham fractured his fibula and all of the ligaments in his ankle, an injury which immediately led to the referee calling a halt to the game. There was a loud crack which was heard by Bealham’s teammates as the prop was found in an unfortunate situation when tackling Bill Mata.
“So I tackled Bill Mata, the Edinburgh number eight. I haven’t watched it but this is from how I remember it. My foot with the big 21mm studs in got stuck in the ground and basically, Bill Mata, who is a big boy himself, he had a couple of latches on him.
“It just all fell on the outside of my ankle and I definitely heard a huge crack. I was in a tremendous amount of pain. I think the ref blew it up pretty much straight away. I’m not sure if you heard the crack but a few of the boys around in the ruck heard something so. It was very painful. It wasn’t a great experience.”
Bealham is on the mend but of course, the next time he will lace his boots is anyone’s guess as Covid-19 continues to put a halt on the current season. Like most of us, these are unchartered waters but especially for rugby players, whose schedules are generally rigid and structured, there’s an element of the unknown and helplessness dealing with the current situation.
“My girlfriend Sarah would be saying to me now in the house that I’m yelling loads and hopping off the walls. I don’t even notice myself doing it. Obviously not having a schedule where I’m busy and getting ready for matches, my mind would be focussed on the opposition on the weekend. I have a lot of spare time now, I need to fill it a bit but it’s quite tough in that regard because I’ve lived on a structure my whole career.
“I’ve had things to look forward to like the games on the weekend and then there’s always a very similar preparation. So not having that now, it’s certainly weird. I’m just trying to fill up my day with different things whether that’s doing a bit of gym in the morning, taking the dogs out for an hour or two, trying to keep busy and trying to be as healthy in mind and in my body as possible and make the best of a tough situation.”
Despite the challenges which he must now overcome, Bealham is keen to stress the bigger picture – there are people in Ireland who are truly suffering and it is these circumstances which are occupying his thoughts.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that the season has been postponed but you hear of so many people being made redundant, those people have families, kids, they have fucking bills to pay, mortgages and stuff. So, I’m not going to sit here and say how disappointed I am that the season is finished.
“There’s people that are genuinely struggling at the moment. I think it’s massively important that, especially with everyone self-isolating, that we keep in touch with everyone, that we take responsibility for ourselves and respect what we put out there in terms of social distancing and the guidance with washing your hands and general hygiene. That’s all we can do at the moment. People’s health is the most important thing at the moment.
“Sometimes, the problem is that there is so much uncertainty, there’s lots of stuff going around on social media that people don’t even have an idea of what is factual information or rumours that have grown legs. I think it’s really important that everyone just kind of sticks to what the experts are saying about social distancing and all the hygiene guidance information.”
For many people throughout the country, this can be a lonely time. Adhering to self-isolation can be difficult and in Bealham’s situation, it’s tough due to the fact that his parents are back in Australia. They were due to visit him in April but that has now been put on hold and it’s natural that the 28-year-old misses them in a time like this.
“My parents are a little bit older now so they’re doing everything they can. They were actually planning to visit me in April, I haven’t seen them since I got injured but they’ve had to cancel that now. Obviously, it will be tough not seeing them and probably won’t see them for the foreseeable future anyway but it’s just a sacrifice we all have to make.
“Everyone’s health is the most important thing. We’re checking in with each other, we’re at different sides of the world but we’re checking in every day and making sure everyone is all good. Mum and Dad are out taking the dogs for a walk, staying home, cooking and just taking it pretty handy. They’re in the Gold Coast in Australia, so they’re not complaining too much. They have to be extra careful.”
Bealham has previously spoken about how he regularly checks notes on his phone to remind him of what to be grateful in life, they become especially useful during times when he might find himself feeling down. Throughout this period, he has made a conscious effort to “take a step back” and appreciate the good things that are in his life.
“It’s a really tough time at the moment for lots of different people. Just to take a step back and be appreciative of everything that you have. My thing for me, my partner Sarah, I have massive respect for her, she’s in the frontline, she’s an intern pharmacist in Dublin in a really, really busy pharmacy. So she’s interacting with all different people and helping them.
“On top of that, all the doctors, nurses and physios just working hard around the country. I have tremendous respect for all of them. To think that a time like this, it’s really important that we be kind to each other, that we’re checking in with each other. That we’re not in our own bubble, that we’re just checking in with each other, being kind to each other.
“It’s really important that everyone does their best to keep healthy and active and make the best of a tough situation.”