Clare footballer Síofra Ní Chonaill hopes to come back a better player after her lockdown enforced rest.
The St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield tyro - who is also a camogie star - was a player in huge demand at club and county level before the GAA season ground to a halt. But the timing was perfect in a way as it allowed her to eventually rest a troublesome back problem.
And the lockdown provided an unexpected educational boost for the University of Limerick Mental Health Nursing student.
“I was at home doing nothing after Covid hit, and I got an email one day from college, seeing if we wanted to be healthcare assistants,” said Ní Chonaill.
“All of our course work was done for the year and we needed to go out and get our first placement at some stage. I thought what better time to get my experience than in a global pandemic, really. You can learn all you want in theory, but it’s the experience that counts. I was thrown in at the deep end but the staff at St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis really good to me.
“I have learned so much in the two and a half months, it’s incredible. It was hectic at the beginning, it was all scary. My family were worried. I have younger three sisters and a brother at home and they were all telling to isolate in the bedroom.
“It was tough going but I love it though, I have learned so much already, more than I’d ever learn in college.”
Working 12-hour shifts has been a challenge for Ní Chonaill, but she has definitely taken the positives from a four-month hiatus from the game. A back injury had finally taken its toll in the weeks before Covid, and with the season on ice, the 19-year-old has not shirked her recovery.
“The injury struck just before the season stopped, and it was a double weekend so I missed both camogie and football games. I have been focusing on building up my flexibility and mobility and on injury prevention. The break from playing came at the right time for me.
A return to club action in the coming weeks cannot come quickly enough for Ní Chonaill, and after a frustrating start to Clare’s Lidl football league, she thinks they have plenty to be excited about with the championship on the horizon.
“We didn’t get off to a great start in 2020 but we were playing senior teams in Division 2 in fairness. When you face experienced teams first up it is tough. But I think we were coming good and we are going to give the championship a right go now. We were very close last year (losing to Tipperary). That was really upsetting but then they went on to win it, and that has given us a bit of a boost.”
In the weeks to come Ní Chonaill hopes to rediscover her match sharpness with club football and camogie games set to come thick and fast.
“The last few months have been a really big change for me, but I really am enjoying it now. I love my job and I really don’t want to leave.Because of all my sporting commitments I never really had a full-time job before. I could never commit to weekends. I’d work evenings and you have to get off for training with one team or another. I was lucky in a way but I am really looking forward to going back in the next few weeks with the club.
“I think everyone will be pumping to go. They’ll have missed it so much. Every county is the same, I reckon it will be really competitive after that break that they always wanted, but never got. In the last few months players will have focused on their weaknesses, the time was there to work on it. Hopefully we’ll all come back stronger and give it a right go.”