'If the phone rings, there’s an emergency I have to go': Evelyn McGinley on balancing her two vocations

It’s not easy mixing the life of a country vet and an inter-county football career but the 26-year-old revels in all of the challenges and wouldn’t have it any other way.
'If the phone rings, there’s an emergency I have to go': Evelyn McGinley on balancing her two vocations

Evelyn McGinley of Donegal in action against Andrea Trill of Galway during the Lidl Ladies Football National League clash earlier this month. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Evelyn McGinley is dedicated to Donegal football - but she knows that if her phone rings during training, she may have to dash off because a cow is calving or a ewe is lambing and her skills as a vet are urgently required.

It’s not easy mixing the life of a country vet and an inter-county football career but the 26-year-old revels in all of the challenges and wouldn’t have it any other way.

It helps that Donegal manager Maxi Curran is understanding and appreciates that the versatile defender is not in a standard nine-to-five job and that the vagaries of animal life don’t always rhyme with the demands of an elite athlete.

Aside from the routine demands, the vet is on call a couple of nights a week and one weekend in every three, but she’s able to juggle the demands and this weekend the top priority is today’s Lidl National Football League Division 1 semi-final showdown against Cork at Tuam Stadium.

“Since as long as I can remember I wanted to be a vet. I just wanted to help animals,” said McGinley.

“I know that’s very cringe but you do veterinary for your love of animals and not for anything else.”

Evelyn McGinley holding a lamb who needed a cast for a broken leg.
Evelyn McGinley holding a lamb who needed a cast for a broken leg.

The love is the driving force as she navigates a tricky schedule in the coming weeks.

At 26, she is entering her prime years as a footballer, but having returned to the game late, she still has plenty to give.

Yet the Termon star is never too far removed from Mulroy Veterinary in Milford, even when she gets the chance to lace up her football boots.

“It is very hard to juggle both, especially at county level. I struggle and all of the girls would be laughing because I’m never on time to training. The nature of the job means you can’t,” said McGinley.

“It is really hard but it’s good that Maxi Curran understands. If you had a really tough manager that wanted you to be there exactly on time it wouldn’t be manageable. He does give me a bit of leeway.

Her love for sport, and ladies football in particular, came and went throughout the years.

“I started at U-10 and I didn’t want to play football at the very start,” said McGinley.

“You are playing with all the boys. You were the only girl. But I remember mom pushing me out the door.” Nevertheless, McGinley’s talents were noticed early and she represented Donegal at U14 and U16 level.

And while she stepped away from playing football competitively for a number of years, her younger brother Ciaran also went on to play for the county at underage level.

Evelyn dipped her toes back in, winning an All-Ireland with Donegal at U21 level, but with veterinary on the horizon, she placed her focus behind her studies.

She went to UCD and although she wasn’t ready for the full commitment of a return to football at the top level, she opted for the university’s second string.

“I took a few years out because with college it was a tough course,” said McGinley.

“I just joined the seconds and played for a bit of fun. Then in my last year of college I decided to go back to county.

“I remember Maxi asked me the year before that. But with placement during the summer I wasn’t going to be able to give it all. I didn’t know about travelling up and down.

“But I liked playing football. The other club I was with, for years people wouldn’t be turning up to training, it would be one or two games a year. I just took a notion then to go back."

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