Saturday 20 April 2019

'Leo Varadkar hit completely the wrong note on medics' - Dublin's Noelle Healy intent to make the best of both worlds

Dublin ladies footballer Noelle Healy at the launch of Future Proof Media in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dublin ladies footballer Noelle Healy at the launch of Future Proof Media in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Dublin ladies football star Noelle Healy is the embodiment of the changing face of Irish women in sport, an athlete equally as successful off the pitch as on it and one not afraid to stand up and fight.

The all-action Healy played an integral part as the Dubs secured back-to-back All-Ireland senior titles last September, all the while balancing the unique demands of her day job as a doctor in Blanchardstown Hospital.

The 2017 Player of the Year - who works as an anaesthesiologist preparing patients for surgery - calls a spade a spade when necessary and took great exception to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's comments last November.

Varadkar warned that hospitals needed to operate "at full whack" over the Christmas holidays with healthcare staff discouraged from taking annual leave at that time of the year.

Seeing the "selfless" work being done at the coalface every day, Healy feels such comments "hit completely the wrong tone" and was one of many to join in the #ImAtWorkLeo social media campaign after completing three gruelling 24-hour shifts in six days before Christmas.

Lucky

The 28-year-old was one of the lucky few to have Christmas Day off - although she did visit Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin with the Brendan Martin Cup - and she takes pride in her ability to maintain inter-county commitments despite the obvious pressures of work.

It requires a lot of planning and "calendar looking" - she credits her colleagues for regularly switching shifts to accommodate training and games - but the St Brigid's attacker doesn't let work interfere with her playing career where at all possible.

"I laugh sometimes when people ask, 'Are you getting enough sleep in?' And some of the girls who are teachers might say they haven't got their nap in yet, and I say, 'I haven't eaten dinner yet!'," Healy says.

"There's a lot of jobs, especially as you get older, trying to progress your career as well as football, you tend to work long hours so it is difficult, just trying to stay hydrated, off your feet, and keeping things balanced."

The four-time All-Star sees the benefits of her career on the pitch, and vice versa. "You learn your skills from your team work. Time management. Balancing life and work commitments. Decision-making that you learn in your sports that you can bring into work are hugely valuable and you can come out an extremely well-rounded person," she says.

Growing up Healy sought to emulate Sonia O'Sullivan as athletics was one of the few female sports in vogue at that time but she marvels at the plethora of sporting role models which young Irish girls have today.

"Nowadays kids are growing up and saying, 'I don't like tennis or rugby but there's people I can look up to', or, 'I don't like running and basketball but there's someone in another sport I can look up to' and that's brilliant."

Having played in the two most well-attended football finals in ladies history - 42,286 in 2017 and 50,141 last year - Healy despairs at the paltry crowds for most other games and sees this is as a huge area for improvement for the LGFA as the Dubs turn their sights towards a three-in-a-row bid this year.

She is part of a "special time for Dublin football" with manager Mick Bohan providing the midas touch and Healy feels his investment in the group helped to negate calls from some men's inter-county teams.

"Dublin means an awful lot to Mick. It's something that he would relate to us a lot, why we're doing this and to be cognisant of it every time we go out there, who we're representing and who is looking up to us. Maybe he feels that he owes it to his two young girls or to other young girls out there to create or to generate role models for them," she remarks.

With heroines like Healy, all aspiring sportswomen are in safe hands.

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