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Aislinn McMahon: Gaelic football is at the heart of Crossmaglen, so the club being closed is surreal


Aislinn McMahon

Aislinn McMahon

Aislinn in action

Aislinn in action

Aislinn McMahon

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives.

Today, we speak to Newry, Mourne and Down Junior Sportsperson of the Year Aislinn McMahon, an Armagh senior camog who captained Sacred Heart, Newry to an Ulster title in January and also plays Gaelic football for her club, Crossmaglen Rangers.

Q: How are you keeping?

A: I've just got the all-clear after a scheduled X-ray on the collarbone I broke late on in Scared Heart's Ulster final victory four months ago so that's a big boost even though there's no sport just now. The shoulder is feeling good and I'm doing well overall, trying to stay positive and keep a bit of structure to my day. In comparison to many, my family and friends are all healthy and haven't suffered from the virus so I'm thankful for that.

Q: How have you been affected?

A: I wouldn't have been able to play for the past few months due to injury. But, last year, between both codes at minor and senior level for Cross and camogie for the Armagh minor and senior county teams, Sacred Heart and Ulster Schools, I ended up playing for eight teams and in a normal week would've been involved in sports at least five or six days. I've always had a very busy lifestyle, balancing sports and school, so it's strange not having either anymore. I was due to complete my A-Levels this year and would've been in the middle of my exams at the moment, but now will be getting predicted grades. It's a weird feeling not being in control of your own results.

Q: How are you keeping fit?

A: As I have had loads of time to focus on myself, I've mainly been sticking to a personal plan tailored around my rehab exercises. To keep fit, I've been concentrating on strength and conditioning exercises while I recover. Also, I'm very lucky to have three sisters who are all sporty, so we go for runs and work out together, although it gets a bit competitive sometimes!

Q: How are you maintaining morale, yours and the teams?

A: Our club senior camogie team has a weekly Zoom training session, which is a great way to keep in touch and keep the bond strong between us. The club has also organised online events like baking classes and has been very proactive in keeping up morale in the community. Gaelic football is at the heart of life in Crossmaglen, so it's surreal the club being closed and no activity going on as the grounds are usually so busy and vibrant.

Q: Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?

A: Like everyone else my age, it's been too easy for me to lie around all day and have multiple lazy days in a row but I've been trying to make constructive use of this free time and keep my days fairly full and productive. The main thing motivating me these past few months, when sidelined by injury and now especially during lockdown, is knowing that being curtailed isn't permanent and things will get better. My dad Peter is joint manager of our club's ladies football team and we chat a lot about sport.

Q: Can you recommend a book, film or box set you think stay at home sports fans might like?

A: I've recently read 'Game Changer' by 11-time ladies Gaelic All Star Cora Staunton. It's an amazing book and Cora is a great role model and inspiration. Also, the movie 'Coach Carter' on Netflix is very good, especially for those missing sports these days.

Q: What life lessons are you learning from this?

A: The biggest life lesson this has taught me so far is that it's important to take a step back and relax as there's no point stressing over things we can't control. Gradually, as life starts to return to normal, we will appreciate the little things even more and not taking anything for granted. I try to look forward with hope and also look back with gratitude for opportunities. I was awarded NMD Junior Sportsperson of the Year the week before shutdown, had that win with Sacred Heart in January, made my Armagh senior camogie debut in the Athletic Grounds last summer and have won several championships with my club's adult teams, so I feel fortunate to have had these experiences at an early age.

Q: What is the first thing you will do when all this is over?

A: The thing I'm most excited to do when this is over and I'm fully fit is to play a competitive camogie match again, then spend time with wider family and friends.

Q: And your message to sports fans?

A: Stay as positive as possible throughout these tough times, but also make use of it by reflecting on yourself and take care of both your mental and physical health. We want to be able to move forward with purpose when this is over.

Belfast Telegraph