For most of us, COVID-19 has disrupted our work and routines. This drastic change is applicable across the board from our recruiters in Cpl who continue to work remotely, to business leaders and sportspeople.
As official Proud Supporters of Dublin Ladies Football, we recently spoke to members of the team about how the pandemic has impacted their lives and their learnings and advice to others around maintaining team moral and productivity.
First in our series is Dublin and St. Brigid’s forward and anaesthetist in Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Noelle Healy.
Tell us a little about how you and your family doing at the moment?
We’re doing great. Both my parents are fit and healthy and neither of them had to cocoon but they were sensible and have taken the right precautions. My sister is a nurse in St. James’ Hospital in the oncology department in the day ward but has a background in the emergency department so was redeployed there for a few months.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on you personally and professionally?
Personally, things have slowed down quite a bit. I had just finished doing exams and had gone back into training four times a week and travelling around the country for matches so it was hectic. Suddenly, I had endless weekends and evenings to myself.
Professionally, things have changed too. As an Anaesthetist I work between theatre and ICU so it would be close-knit between the surgeons, the nurses, supporting staff but social distancing has restricted things.
In terms of PPE and distancing with patients, it was initially a little strange. It was a learning curve trying to be extra conscious about protecting ourselves and our patients.
In terms of football, when did you first become aware that COVID-19 would likely lead to the League campaign and possibly the All-Ireland Championships being postponed or delayed?
Towards the end of February. My teammate Lucy Collins is a Physio in the Mater Hospital and we started noticing things were ramping up in our respective hospitals and reading about cases in other countries nearby.
The Italian Football League had been cancelled so we were getting a sense that something might happen. Before a decision was made, we were asking Mick (team manager) if there were plans in place, then when it was announced that schools were closing you knew it was only a matter of time.
We knew there was no way the League campaign would continue and it looked for a while like there might be no All-Ireland Championship so there was a lot of uncertainty.
Sportspeople tend to have very regimental schedules. Was it difficult to adjust to a different way of life when the pandemic began? How is it now?
Yes absolutely. You do get into a routine and get used to training in a team. I think a lot of us struggled to find the motivation and headspace to train by ourselves – that’s probably why we were all driven to a team sport!
It was an adjustment and there were days when you were super motivated and then times when you start asking “what’s the purpose of doing a hard session?”
With the absence of training/matches since March, what have you done to stay in shape and retain your fitness levels?
I set up a circuit outside my house with two dumbbells, a kettlebell and a skipping rope and my boyfriend and myself started making training circuits so that was fun.
Then there was a lot of different charity challenges that began which were a good way of staying fit. For the last few weeks, we’ve been able to meet up in groups of two’s and three’s to get some football in. It will be strange to go back to proper team training but I’m really looking forward to it.
The initial thoughts on how this pandemic affects sportspeople is the impact it has on them physically. Do you think the mental health aspect is something which is overlooked or underestimated?
100%. One thing we have emphasised between ourselves as a team during this time is to look out for each other.
Nobody knows the right way to go about a situation like this as no one has ever faced it before. We definitely tried to make sure that we were supporting each other as much as possible.
The mental health side for athletes can be difficult as you’re ultimately training towards a goal and suddenly that is taken away from you. We’re lucky as a team that it’s a side of the game that the management has focused on quite a lot.
How have you and the rest of the team remained in contact during this time? Have you any good ideas for teams on how to keep up team morale?
To keep the team connected we’ve done all the usual things like Zoom quiz’s, which are nice and help remind us just how close we all are.
We’ve done some joint fundraisers as well which were great to do and also done a Kris Kindle-style initiative where we bought someone a gift with a limit of €20 and sent it to their house. I think the gifts showed just how well we know each other!
A few of us also started up a book club so we have been taking turns to nominate ones to read and having reviews through Zoom which has been fun.
The LGFA, GAA and the Camogie Association recently published a plan with guidelines for a safe return for all three organisations. How do you feel about the return dates and having matches to work towards?
It’s nice to have that goal again and to know that we’ll play some football this year. I think that’s the main thing I’m excited about. Hopefully, if things go well, we’ll have an inter-county championship and club championship to enjoy.
It was a major boost when we found out there was something concrete being put in place. From a safety perspective as well, it seems like a comprehensive plan which is great.
Do you think the likelihood of playing matches with no spectators for the foreseeable future will have an impact on players at all?
I don’t think so. I think we’re all just happy that we’ll get to play football again. I’ve been watching some of the Premier League matches since they’ve returned, and the quality of play still seems to be the same.
The crowd definitely has a role play but I don’t think it will take away the enjoyment from us at all. There’s also a chance that there might be some sort of crowd hopefully – if some of our families and friends can attend and share those days with us it would be great.
What have you learnt from the past few months?
I think the benefit of slowing down. As tough as lockdown and isolating was at times, it was nice to relax a bit more. I think the importance of family and friends, and making time to see them, is probably something you don’t really appreciate until you’re not able to do it.
You also learn the benefit of support structures and the importance of community. If you look at some of the fundraisers – a lot of those involved in GAA rely on those to survive.
The “Do It For Dan” initiative was just staggering – I know and have played with Aisling Donoher so my heart broke for her when I heard about it. To see the way people pulled to together for that was incredible.
It’s also great that the ICU’s and hospitals never got overwhelmed and we were able to flatten the curve as well as we did so I think there are positives from that perspective too.