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'I only passed out on the Friday and work started the following Monday' - Sligo's Denise McGrath now on different beat

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Sligo forward Denise McGrath eyes up the target during the 2015 Ladies National Football League Division 3 Final against Waterford in Parnell Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

Sligo forward Denise McGrath eyes up the target during the 2015 Ladies National Football League Division 3 Final against Waterford in Parnell Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

Sligo forward Denise McGrath eyes up the target during the 2015 Ladies National Football League Division 3 Final against Waterford in Parnell Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

To describe the last 12 months of Denise McGrath's life as a whirlwind would be an underestimation of epic proportions.

This time last year, she finished a Public Health and Health Promotion degree at IT Sligo. A week later, she enrolled in Templemore Garda College and 32 weeks later, she passed out with her 200 class-mates. A week after that, her new station in Navan introduced its Covid-19 plan.

It was no shock that something had to give in all of that upheaval, and the Ballymote native stepped back from Sligo county duty for the season.

Still, McGrath managed to lead her adopted club St Nathy's to the All-Ireland Intermediate Club semi-final, where they were beaten by just a point by Belfast outfit Naomh Pól.

"I only passed out on a Friday at the end of February and work started the following Monday in our stations. I was in Navan for about a week and the virus outbreak meant the roster was changed," says the 23-year-old.

"Every day you are on something different - you could be detailed to car duty, on the beat or in the office. I was doing checkpoints a few times and people have been very obliging with everything that's going on and have stuck to the guidelines."

Sabbatical

McGrath's inter-county career started at the age of 15 back in 2012 and, other than last year's sabbatical, she has been a constant presence under the management of Pat Costello and Paddy Henry.

Back in the fold again this year with Michael Bohan in charge, McGrath says club success in 2019 has renewed her love for the game.

"We all laughed when anyone mentioned the goal of getting to a Connacht final.

"But then when we won in Sligo and got to the provincial final and won it, everyone realised we were well able to keep going.

"We had a great win over in London, but then losing by a point to St Paul's up in Belfast in the last game, it was awful disappointing. We were in pure shock after it."

One of her county colleagues is Etna Flanagan, captain of the Yeats County back in McGrath's debut season. In January 2015, Flanagan's family was rocked by the death of their son, Ríoghnán, who had been waiting for a heart transplant. St Nathy's carry an organ donor message on their jerseys since then.

And each year on the June Bank Holiday weekend, the club visit Killeshandra in Co Cavan - home of Ríoghnán father, Conor - to compete in the 5km Run for Ríoghnán.

That trip is not possible this year but, instead, the St Nathy's players will run 9km each in Ríoghnán's memory - he would be nine next week - with all funds raised going towards Crumlin Children's Hospital.

“Everyone in the club looks forward to the June bank holiday. Everyone comes together, it’s nearly a given that we go and do the Run for Ríoghnán and then we relax together for the evening, have a few chats.

"It’s annoying this year that we cannot do that. But we couldn’t let the weekend go without doing something. Obviously we are all going to come together and do the virtual run. We always do this event as a club, so to do 9km in our own time, and do it around our own house is a great way to mark the day that's in it.

"This has been going on so long now, we couldn’t let it go without marking the occasion. We'll all come together again and mark it, albeit in a bit of a different manner."

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