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Hockey star Katie Larmour torn over whether to fly home as American dream put on hold

 

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Happier times: Katie Larmour (front left) with uni pals

Happier times: Katie Larmour (front left) with uni pals

With dad Drew, mum Roisin and brother Christopher

With dad Drew, mum Roisin and brother Christopher

Katie in action

Katie in action

Happier times: Katie Larmour (front left) with uni pals

Currently stranded in New Jersey, top young hockey player Katie Larmour's plans to fly home to Belfast for the summer are up in the air - unlike the majority of planes these days due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The 22-year-old is shortly due to enter the final year of a hockey scholarship which she combines with a degree course in sport and exercise management at Rutger's University.

She had hoped to travel back to Northern Ireland next month but, with no signs of imminent improvement in the coronavirus situation and New Jersey expected to be in lockdown until June at the earliest, she may not be able to get home.

Katie is also concerned that if she did manage to return to Belfast, she would be unable to make the return trip for the college hockey pre-season in July.

The pandemic has hit the United States hard and the neighbouring state of New York is the epicentre of the deadly disease.

More than 26,000 people have died across the US with the death toll in New York alone spiralling to over 11,000.

In New Jersey, the picture is also grim, with the number of Covid-19 related deaths rising to around the 3,000 mark yesterday.

Katie set out on her American adventure in 2016, shortly after captaining Methodist College Belfast to all-Ireland glory following their Belfast Telegraph Ulster Senior Cup final win over Sullivan Upper in which she scored the only goal of the game.

In travelling to the US, the midfielder followed a long line of Ulster and Irish players who made the transatlantic trip to further their careers both academically and in sport.

It's a well-trodden route and, indeed, three of the six Ulster players who lifted silver medals with Ireland at the 2018 World Cup made the journey, namely Megan Frazer, Zoe Wilson and Ayeisha McFerran.

Having been capped at Under-16, 18 and 21 level for her country, Katie was a natural candidate to add her name to the list of rising stars to make the journey across the Atlantic.

Now, though, the American dream is on hold and, naturally, she is concerned not just for her own wellbeing but that of her family, who are steeped in sport.

Dad Drew represented Ulster at senior level in hockey, mum Roisin captained Collegians (now Belfast Harlequins) to the top-flight of the local game in the late '80s and brother Christopher was a member of the Methody team that won the Danske Bank Schools' Rugby Cup last year.

Katie said: "My parents and the rest of my extended family are safe at home but my brother is still in Australia where he's taking a gap year and I'm worried he may get stuck there with the travel restrictions that are in place.

"I try and call my parents and brother every couple of days just to try and stay connected.

"I'm really fortunate that there are apps such as FaceTime and Zoom that allow us to talk to each other face to face and my family have always been my biggest motivators, so now is no different. I know that I am very fortunate to have places to go in the States in normal times, but I do have a decision to make about going home or staying here."

These aren't normal times, of course, and Katie's sporting and academic life has been affected by the lockdown in New Jersey.

She added: "It's been weird trying to adjust to the university going online as the campus isn't safe and is closed to students.

"It's about getting the hang of a weekly routine now that I don't have to go to lectures and it has been difficult to try and keep on top of upcoming assignments and projects.

"Social distancing has its ups and downs and everything is closing down here. We are being advised to wear masks when we leave the house, we aren't allowed to go anywhere that isn't essential and we aren't really supposed to be outside even for exercise."

Staying fit for her hockey has also been challenging for Katie and being separated from her team-mates has been difficult. As a close-knit university side, they have so much in common with each other.

"It has been incredibly difficult; all NCAA athletics activities across the various sports have been suspended for the remainder of the academic year and it's also strange being away from my team-mates," she said.

"Team bonding has to be done virtually which is weird but our coaches have organised weekly virtual meetings with us.

"Our team also has a message group that we post pictures into after every workout, so it's a great way to stay connected as well as holding each other accountable for doing the workouts.

"It has been hard having to do conditioning by myself, but I know that right now the 2020 season is still going to happen for us, so I have to keep that in mind and stay positive whether or not I manage to get home in the meantime."

Belfast Telegraph