Friday 14 December 2018

GAA star Sinead Delahunty on the foods that fuel her County football career: 'I'm not a perfectionist, I'm just interested in being healthy'

She works five days a week in the hospital, goes home for county training twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) on top of matches, and also travels across the city weekly for club training.

Grilled brie and vegetable frittata

Cliona Foley

We've seen athletes do it and models do it, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that an ­inter-county GAA player has joined the growing ranks of Ireland's food bloggers. Tipperary Gaelic footballer Sinéad Delahunty took it up while adapting recipes to her own needs, especially for healthy eating.

The wonder, though, is how she fits it all in, given her hectic lifestyle, and how quickly the 25-year-old physiotherapist has made her mark.

Delahunty set up her food blog - 'Delalicious' - just 14 months ago, but her signature nettle pesto dish has already helped win a sort of foodie All-Ireland title, and a trip to represent Ireland internationally.

And it has also just earned her a new ambassadorial role with John West, the new three-year sponsors of Feile, the GAA's national U14 competition.

It's all happened in between working as a physiotherapist in Blanchardstown Hospital and playing football for Tipperary and her club Foxrock-Cabinteely, with whom she won Dublin and Leinster titles in 2015.

From the small Tipperary town Fethard, Delahunty believes that if she can manage to eat healthily, then anyone can, and that her GAA-playing lifestyle is partly to thank for that.

All-Ireland winning footballer Sinead Delahunty is one of Ireland's leading food bloggers. Photo: Gerry Mooney.
All-Ireland winning footballer Sinead Delahunty is one of Ireland's leading food bloggers. Photo: Gerry Mooney.

She works five days a week in the hospital, goes home for county training twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) on top of matches, and also travels across the city weekly for club training.

"To play 'county', between work and training, you have to be really organised in your food preparation," Delahunty says. "It's all about time-management.

"I'm probably lucky to have grown up on a farm. Mam would always have cooked our food from scratch so I've always been into cooking.

"My older brother Eoin kept nagging me to start a blog and I was like 'sure, who'd read that?' But he just kept at me and eventually I said I'd do it, just to shut him up!" she laughs. "I just update it once a week and I really enjoy it."

Her food philosophy is about "growing and cooking your own food and buying ingredients rather than products", and she's a big fan of batch-cooking.

"It's very easy to eat convenience or processed food, like all those ready-to-go meals, but you can just as easily have healthy ready-to-go meals that you've made yourself, at home, in your freezer.

"If you're in front of the stove cooking one thing, it's as easy to have another thing on the go as well. Then you have your food for a week or two. You just have to dedicate one night a week to making a few things and be organised."

Necessity has certainly made her particularly organised.

Twice a week she rushes straight from work to meet a gang of teammates at the Poitín Stil and they travel together to Killenaule in Tipperary.

"We bring our dinner with us to eat on the drive down. I got this great glass container that keeps it warm for about an hour so I heat it up just before I leave work.

"I need to have my lunch for work as well and more food to eat on the way back. At the end of every day I have a bag full of empty Tupperware," she admits.

Delahunty's cooking concentrates on wheat-free and slow-release carbs and some of her teammates have already been converted to her non-flour (oat) bread and roasted carrot and garlic hummus.

The blog may be a bit of fun, but it has already taken her places she never expected.

"Cono Sur (wines) sponsored a competition last year and [subsequently] loads of Irish food bloggers [were invited] to enter. I had all these mad notions about what I'd make and had three months to enter but the club got to the Dublin final around the deadline. I was really stuck for time and just entered at the last minute."

A public vote (her football buddies helped) eventually whittled the entries down to a final 13.

Delahunty was really surprised to make the final three short-list and even more shocked when an independent judge picked her dish as the winner.

"I never dreamed I'd get that far, it was just mad. That meant I got to represent Ireland in a competition in Paris against five other countries, I still can't believe that happened."

The Masterchef-style competition fell exactly mid-way between two huge matches for herself and Foxrock-Cabinteely.

"We played a Leinster club semi-final the weekend before and the Leinster final the week after so it was hectic. Looking back there was so much going on I don't know if I enjoyed it enough. I was minding myself for my matches so I didn't want to pigging out on loads of food."

Her mum accompanied her to France for a "brilliant, unbelievable experience" which also occurred on a fateful day in Paris' history.

"The competition took place on November 13 so we were at the awards ceremony on a boat on the Seine that night of the Paris attacks.

"We were half-way through dinner, there were French people at our table and one of them initially got a text from his family asking if he was alright. He found out what was happening and then everyone got on their phones. The organisers felt we were in the safest place at the time. We could see all the ambulances and police cars going past so we waited on the boat for three more hours and we came straight home the next morning."

A food blogger from Sweden won the competition, but Delahunty's dish of baked cod certainly had a unique Irish twist.

"Yes, that nettle pesto!" she laughs. "Nettles are full of iron and nutrients and you can just go out in the field and pick them. Everyone asks me 'where are you getting your nettles up in Dublin?' but the hospital is surrounded by loads of fields.

"Pesto was the first big thing I made with them but there's loads of options. You can even make nettle cordial."

Delahunty has played, at corner-back, for Tipperary for eight years and won (2008) and lost (2013) All-Ireland intermediate finals with them.

Last year was a great year with her club as Foxrock-Cabinteely won their first Leinster title and played in an All-Ireland semi-final, and 2016 has already started well as Tipp, under new manager Gerry McGill, have reached the Division Three final of the Lidl NFL.

The GAA's first food blogger is being kept very busy indeed.

"People mostly ask me questions when they've tried something and it didn't work out and they want to know why. I think a lot of people are afraid of the kitchen, like 'oh, it'll go wrong.' So what? It's not the end of the world," she advises.

"You're probably hungry and will still eat it anyway. It doesn't have to look perfect. It's far more important to be healthy."

* Find Sinéad's food blog at

Sinéad's daily schedule

7.10am Wake-up

7.20am Breakfast: homemade granola or overnight oats, topped with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit/berries plus a green smoothie

8.30am Work begins in Blanchardstown Hospital (physiotheraphy)

11am Mid-morning break: handful of mixed nuts with water

1pm Lunch: a large mixed salad (from kale/spinach/celery/cucumber/beetroot/shredded carrot/red cabbage) plus slow-release carb source (quinoa/bulgur wheat/roast sweet potato) plus protein source (mini quiche/cottage cheese/chicken/salmon), topped with mixed seeds/avocado. Mandarin orange and water

4.30pm Finish work

4.45pm Meet teammates and trainer to travel to Tipp for training

5.30pm Dinner en route: Baked sweet potato with steamed broccoli/courgette/kale and homemade chicken massaman curry or marinated baked cod. Pear and water

7pm Arrive at training (change & stretch/foam roll first)

7.30pm-9pm Tipperary football training

9pm Post-training protein source, milk and shower

9.15pm-11.15pm Return to Dublin, eating post-training meal en route: either oat bread topped with cottage cheese and beetroot or smoothie with berries/ oats/milk

11.30pm Bed


Monday Yoga or walk plus daily stretches/mobility work

Tuesday County training plus stretches/mobility

Wednesday Club training or match plus daily stretches/mobility

Thursday Gym session (weights) plus daily stretches/mobility

Friday County training plus daily stretches/mobility

Saturday Walk plus daily stretches/mobility work

Sunday County training or match plus daily stretches/mobility

Grilled Brie and vegetable frittata

Grilled brie and vegetable frittata

Hungry and don't want to spend ages in front of the cooker? A frittata is the answer. Packed full of protein, vitamin-bursting spinach and  vegetables.

Substitute sweet potato, carrot or squash for the turnip if you dislike the humble swede. Add a salad on the side and you're sorted!


100g turnip

Coconut oil

half medium red onion

Qtr red pepper

3 fistfuls of spinach

2 tsp garlic butter

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk


50g Brie


1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the peeled and cubed turnip. Blanch for about 10 mins until tender. Strain and rinse the turnip with ice cold water. Set aside for later.

2. Melt 1 tsp coconut oil on a heatproof frying pan. Finely slice the red pepper and onion and add to the pan over a medium heat. Sauté the onion and pepper until translucent. Remove from the pan.

3. Add the turnip, spinach and garlic butter to the pan and toss until well coated. Continue to cook until the spinach wilts, return the onion and pepper to the pan.

4. Beat the eggs and milk together and season with pepper. Pour over the vegetable mixture and cook for about 2 mins.

5. Chop the Brie into cubes and sprinkle over the pan before placing under a grill for 5 mins to cook through the eggs.

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