Galway football star Tracey Leonard is amongst the thousands of health care professionals in the front line of the battle against Covid-19.
An outpatient nurse, the Corofin native has been secounded into a role as a tester in UCHG’s drive-through coronavirus clinic, as dreams of winning a first national senior medal with the Galway Ladies footballers have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
Leaders of the Lidl National Football League Division 1 as it stands, Galway — who finished runners-up in both national competitions in 2019 — and Leonard are in the abyss with all sports teams, with no collective training permitted, while they also have no idea when football will resume.
But 28-year-old Leonard has more important challenges ahead.
For now, she is mostly testing her fellow healthcare professionals to ensure they are fit and healthy to serve the public, but they are all expecting a significant spike in their workloads in the coming weeks.
“Our clinic is next door to the infectious diseases department, so we’ve been moved over to do testing for Covid-19,” said Leonard, who captained Galway in the TG4 All-Ireland final last year.
They have set up a drive-through clinic. So far we are testing mainly staff, but in the next week I’m sure we’ll be seeing the general public.
“There is a sense of worry around, but from a healthcare point of view, you can only control so much. The hospital is pretty calm at the minute but a lot of people are expecting a spike in the next week or 10 days.
"In the meantime, we are going from day to day, doing what we can to prepare ourselves.”
Leonard says she is not frightened by the challenge she faces each day.
“We are well kitted out with our protective gear. Hand washing is a key thing in our line of work anyway — it’s nothing new to us.
"I know I am that bit younger too, so my immunity should be a bit stronger — I’m sure football has helped me with that — so the job doesn’t worry me.
“My only concern at the start was if I had anyone elderly or sick at home, but thank God they are all pretty healthy. I still live at home and my parents were totally supportive. Their outlook is the same as mine.
In the profession I’m in I can help out and I can enable other health care professionals with the screening and make sure they are okay to work. There is a real job satisfaction in that.
“I am on the other side of it carrying out the test, but we can imagine how nerve-wracking it must be for the people being tested and then for a day or two when you’re waiting for results to come back. All the medical staff want to get back to work and play their part.”
The one positive from the outbreak has been the time afforded to families to spend together, and she says seeing more of her parents and brother Jason — a recent triple All-Ireland winner with Corofin — has helped.
“It is surreal, sometimes you think you are dreaming. Then you realise it’s real life. But football has been put on the back burner with everything that’s going on.
"But sometimes these things in life could be good for us. It gives us all some time to get to know our siblings a bit better.
“Sometimes things work out for the better; there are positives from everything. We’ll spend more time together as a family than usual and that is good. Our lives had gotten so busy and we didn’t have time to do that.
Now you can’t go anywhere so you have time to be with your family.