Noelle Healy comfortable in retirement after stellar career

Job as a doctor offers its own challenges on top of intercounty career

Noelle Healy pictured at home with some stand-out medals and awards from her career. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Noelle Healy pictured at home with some stand-out medals and awards from her career. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

 

Noelle Healy called time on an extraordinary career last April. Five senior All-Irelands with Dublin and a Player of the Year award were simply the headlines but their span, from 2010 to 2020, and the depths of disappointment in between gave it all an epic scale.

Promoting this year’s Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour series, Healy, now 30, firmly rejected any notion of second thoughts.

“No, not at all. It’s something, like I said before, I had given an awful lot of thought to. I wouldn’t have just jumped into it. I suppose there’s the odd pang of missing it, especially when you’re watching them celebrate with the cup but I’ve just been very fortunate in that they’re experiences that I’ve had before.”

After the weirdness of last year’s four-in-a-row All-Ireland victory over Cork, played in front of empty stands five days before Christmas and the lockdown that followed, the Dublin tanks have rolled once more and this year’s league was won last month by defeating old rivals Cork.

This year’s championship begins on Saturday with an opening match against Tyrone.

She says that it’s reassuring to see the team’s success continue after her retirement, having contributed to all five of the county’s triumphs in the Brendan Martin Cup.

“Absolutely. It would be heart breaking if a few of us started to walk away and all of a sudden, it fell apart. We always took great pride after appearing in All-Ireland finals, meeting younger players and seeing the excitement they got from that.

“Even some of the girls who would have played at half time, or attended the 2010 final or 2014 final and seeing them now being part of our team and having those experiences inspire them. It’s exactly the kind of legacy that you’d want to leave.”

A stylish and accurate forward, blessed with pace, Healy was also one of the small number who have won All-Irelands at under-14, under-16, minor and senior - as well as at club level when she played for Mourneabbey when working down in Cork University Hospital.

Her career as a doctor has been a demanding backdrop to life as an intercounty footballer. A specialist in anaesthesia, she is now back in Dublin working in St Vincent’s. Healy sees the twin demands as challenging but not mutually exclusive.

“No, I don’t think it’s incompatible. Anaesthesia is six years in college, one year of an internship and then six years of a specialist training scheme to finish your clinical training in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine. I’m in year five of this, I’ve just finished that so I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s incompatible and it’s definitely not a message that I would want to go out there.

“I always said that I was happy to put the effort in as long as I was getting the same level of enjoyment out of it. I guess over the last year or two, that started to just wane a little bit. We work an awful lot of weekends, we end up working every second, if not third, weekend.

“They’re 24-hour shifts, they’re physically and emotionally quite demanding, and trying to swap that around training and things like that, while missing out on family events, friends events and things like that, I suppose it took its toll.”

Unsurprisingly, her most memorable year was 2017 when Dublin finally turned the tide of three successive All-Ireland defeats by Cork and regained the title after a seven-year absence.

“The standout year for me personally, 2017 was a great year. Finally getting the monkey off your back and winning an All-Ireland was a phenomenal achievement and a phenomenal feeling. Being selected as Player of the Year by your peers as well is always a very nice accolade and a nice nod but I think it was more for us, as a team, what we managed to achieve.

“We’re quite proud of ourselves, being able to dust ourselves down after losing an All-Ireland final, bringing ourselves and our standards back up. Twenty-sixteen was a really tough year, a lot of us probably questioned whether we would even continue or whether we were just frankly good enough to win. To have that turnaround was really satisfying for us.”

There are five Dublin players on the Team of the League, Division One selection. Dublin’s Abby Shiels, in the absence of regular goalkeeper Ciara Trant, made some outstanding saves in the final against Cork. She is joined by Cuala pair Martha Byrne and Jennifer Dunne, Olwen Carey and Hannah Tyrrell, who switched from playing rugby for Ireland in this year’s 6 Nations to resuming her football career. Cork have six, Donegal four.

Lidl team of the league (Division One): Abby Shiels (Dublin); Shauna Kelly (Cork), Evelyn McGinley (Donegal), Martha Byrne (Dublin); Erika O’Shea (Cork), Olwen Carey (Dublin), Melissa Duggan (Cork); Katy Herron (Donegal), Jennifer Dunne (Dublin); Hannah Tyrrell (Dublin), Ciara O’Sullivan (Cork), Orla Finn (Cork); Sadhbh O’Leary (Cork), Karen Guthrie (Donegal), Geraldine McLaughlin (Donegal).

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