Saturday 23 September 2017

Resilient Galvin grabs her chance

Louise Galvin: ‘There is so much more to life if you take a risk.’ Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Louise Galvin: ‘There is so much more to life if you take a risk.’ Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

It's a couple of days since the Women's Rugby World Cup kicked off in UCD and the place is buzzing. It's like a mini Olympic Games. Players from the different teams strolling around in shorts, training tops and flip flops, heading to the gym, pool or coffee dock.

They all have their country colours on so it's easy to pick out the tournament favourites and those who have a mountain to climb to progress to the semi-finals. It's heaven for people-watchers.

Ireland's Louise Galvin arrives to the student centre accompanied by the team's media officer Sam O'Byrne. It's a World Cup so all activity has a very official feel about it. The turnaround between the opening game against Australia and today's outing against Japan is only five days.

It's not ideal for recovery and preparation but they knew well in advance that it was coming down the track so plans were put in place to deal with all eventualities. Luckily, Tom Tierney was able to report a clean bill of health after their bruising encounter against Australia in the UCD Bowl.

Ireland got off to a winning start but Galvin wasn't involved in that game. She was waiting in the wings.

Galvin was a late call-up to the squad after Niamh Briggs was ruled out through injury. Briggs' misfortune presented the former Kerry footballer and international basketball player with an opportunity to add another highlight to her already impressive sporting showreel.

"I was absolutely thrilled when I got the phone call from Anthony Eddy," explained Galvin. "It was just before it was announced so I didn't even get a chance to tell my mam, she heard it on Radio Kerry. Obviously I knew when I was on standby that if I was going to be called in it would be because someone was injured.

"It makes you more determined to come in and do a job for the squad. To make a good contribution because you are taking the place of someone whose dreams have been crushed."

Like many of her team-mates she was a late-comer to the game. However being from Munster she was captivated by the great teams who pulled off unbelievable feats in Europe during her school days.

And being from Kerry she had the added interest of following the exploits of Mick Galwey. But little did she know she would be one day pulling on a green jersey of her own and participating in a World Cup.

Galvin is predominantly a sevens player. She has been centrally contracted for the last two years and has spent a large amount of that time travelling around the world playing tournaments. Before that she had been working as a physiotherapist in Mid Western Regional Hospital but took a career break to give elite sport a whirl.

"I loved playing football and basketball," she says. "I wasn't someone who was massively looking for a change. What we do is fantastic and we get to travel the world but it didn't make any career or financial sense.

"I'd recently got a promotion in the HSE so I was handing all that back. I had been on a steady path and decided to step off it and go down an unknown road. It was a big risk."

When she started in the University of Limerick Galvin was keen to be involved in the sport side of physiotherapy, but a stint in the hospital gave her great enjoyment and she decided to follow that path.

Before throwing her lot in with rugby she worked with cystic fibrosis patients and it's a mix of difficult and exciting but it gives her great job satisfaction.

"Working with patients with cystic fibrosis gives you a lot of perspective. Sometimes when you are dealing with stuff on the pitch and you have to realise that it is not life or death.

"I can get a bit overwhelmed sometimes but I take a step back and think about the battles the patients are fighting or their families, it can give me a timely reminder to give myself a kick up the backside."

But Galvin has had to overcome challenges of her own. In 2013, her world was turned upside when her fitness-loving boyfriend Alan Feeley suffered a brain haemorrhage while at the gym and never regained consciousness. He was just 28. It was a traumatic and difficult time but she has come through it and credits sport with helping her cope.

"I think sport itself is a microcosm of life, you have to face a lot of battles and you have to build up a lot of resilience. You need people around you.

"These two weeks in a World Cup you are in a bubble and it is fantastic. It shows that there is so much more to life if you take a risk, if you take a chance and you are willing to overcome setbacks and work hard.

"You are going to come up against things that you think you aren't going to overcome but you learn to be battle-hardened and take help when you need it. There's always a light.

"I leaned on the people around me who were absolutely phenomenal. It probably was the first time I learned how important sport and exercise is for your mental health.

"It's something I would have said before but not something I experienced. Once I got back on my feet and got back doing sport and exercise and being part of a team, I really felt it.

"We were in basketball season at the time, the team are so close. They are different kind of friendships you develop in sport. I leaned a lot on my coaches, friends and management.

"Even someone like Lindsay Peat, I'm her team-mate now but at the time I was her opponent on the football pitch and basketball court. She is the type of person who would cross the road and say I'm really sorry that happened and we are here for you.

"That's the prime example of the circle of people you meet when playing sport and I'm delighted to be on the same team as her now."

Galvin is on the bench today and should make her World Cup debut. Tom Tierney has made a number of changes, rotating his squad as he looks to make the most of his resources.

"We've made a number of changes to the side from the Australia game with a view to giving some players a rest from what was a very physical game, but we also want to give the other members of the squad the opportunity to show what they can do against a fast and agile Japanese team."

Nicole Cronin will win her first 15s cap as she partners outhalf Nora Stapleton at half-back. Today Galvin knows that moments are precious and when her chance comes she plans to seize it. Life has taught her to do just that.

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