By Jackie Cahill
Dublin star Noelle Healy is serious about her football but her work at the Mater Hospital helps to keep sport in its proper perspective.
Gruelling 12-hour shifts are the norm for Healy, who qualified as a doctor in early 2015.
Sport provides a release from her hectic professional life and while defeats on the field of play are hard to take, Healy sees far worse suffering on a daily basis.
She says: “It’s sport at the end of the day. It’s a match and it’s natural when you invest so much into it, you’d be disappointed when it doesn’t go your way but you could torture yourself if you kept thinking about it.
“I’m working in cardiology at the moment and in the clinics you’d come across people exactly the same age, struggling to walk down a corridor.
“They might have had cancer in the past or leg amputations but they’re still cheerful and happy, when I might have been feeling sorry for myself.”
Healy is 25 years of age and enjoying her ninth season on the Dublin panel.
A 2010 All-Ireland winner, Healy suffered the heartbreak of successive final defeats to Cork in 2014 and 2015.
But she’s part of an exciting Dublin group preparing to lock horns with the Rebelettes in next Sunday’s Lidl National League Division 1 clash at Parnell Park.
Dublin are off to a solid start this year, collecting two wins from their three matches to date.
And Healy will look to blow off some natural fatigue after a hectic few days when the Sky Blues lock horns with the League and All-Ireland champions.
The past week saw her put down four night shifts and while she had to miss training on Wednesday because of work, that might happen once every 12 weeks, she estimates.
The work-sport balance can be a delicate juggling act at times but Healy has learned to adapt.
The talented half-forward explains: “I’ve been doing it for the last few years.
“When I was in my final year in college and being on placement and playing football, I had to plan my week ahead and make the most of the evenings off.
“I always knew that I wanted to do something around health and science, I put down medicine to see how I would get on and I was lucky enough to get into it.
“There are no more 24-hour shifts, which is a huge thing. That’s only fair for the patients and us as well.
“There’s been huge change, it’s not a perfect system but everybody is doing the best they can.
“You’ll get the odd few patients who will complain but most people are happy with the care they get and the doctors are top class.
“I’ve worked in Tullamore as well and wherever you go, you see top class doctors doing their best. I spent three months in Tullamore from October until January and really enjoyed it – it’s different to city living!
“Everybody knew each other and it was a very close-knit place.”
Ultimately, the goal for Dublin is to collect the Brendan Martin Cup again in September but all would-be contenders will have to wrestle the silverware from a Cork side who have been champions in ten of the last eleven seasons.
Sunday will give Dublin an early indication as to where they stand in relation to their big-city rivals.
And Healy says: “We know as well as anybody that you can never write them off. We wouldn’t pay much attention to how they’re doing in the League. They’ll still be very, very strong contenders, really proud footballers and excellent footballers.
“That’s not going to stop just because they’ve lost their manager (former boss Eamonn Ryan). In many ways, they’ll have an even bigger point to prove.”
Healy and Dublin look fresh and hungry during the early weeks of 2016, as they seek to banish the ghosts of the last two Septembers.
And Healy adds: “You just have to get over it. It’s a horrible loss and I know some people that do go through the stages of grief after an All-Ireland final defeat.
“For the first part, you just want to stay in your bubble with the people who know how raw it is and how it feels.
“I had to throw myself back into work and that was a nice distraction.
“And you have to look on the bright side – only two teams got to All-Ireland final day on Croke Park in front of a big crowd.
“It’s a loss but it’s not a real loss – nobody’s died and you get to play the sport you love with some of your best friends.”