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Shirley McCay: 'I'm learning to appreciate what really matters and value our inspirational medical workers'



Shirley McCay

Shirley McCay

Shirley McCay

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, we speak to hockey player Shirley McCay (31) who is Ireland's most-capped sportswoman (306 caps).

Q: How are you keeping?

A: I am keeping well all things considered and being strict on all precautions, staying at home as far as I can, washing my hands and obviously social distancing from family and friends.​

Q: How is the virus affecting you?​

​A: I am employed as a talent coach with Ulster Hockey and, obviously, the workload has been reduced and any groups we had training have had to stop. However, it has given me time to organise things like planning for the next couple of years, strategic plans and the like - the admin no one wants to get done! ​My family are doing okay, thankfully, and mum and dad are staying indoors apart from being out and about on the family farm in Drumquin, Co Tyrone with the lambs​.

Q: How are you keeping fit?​

A: Everywhere has been pretty quiet outside, so I've been doing my running on any football pitch or long stretch of footpath that I can find. ​Roadworks have even left me a few cones to use. Like the rest of the Irish squad, I have been improvising and doing a lot of work on my own after we set up makeshift gyms in our homes and gardens.​

Q: How are you keeping morale up?

A: We've been sharing some videos of us doing our own training and keeping in touch with video meetings and small group stuff.​ Some of the girls have been putting videos online and some of the social media stuff has been great.​ There have been some great skills on show from all over the world as other players at all levels have been doing pretty much the same as us by staying at home to train. ​We're getting daily contact from our strength and conditioning staff, nutritional advice is also available if and when we need it and psychological support is there as well.​ Obviously, this has been a pretty big change to everyone's daily lives so it's great we have access to all the services and support. ​

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

A: I'm known to sometimes be a bit of a recluse and fairly quiet, so I'm using that to my advantage right now. I am doing plenty of reading, listening to all of my favourite music and playing Scrabble while also getting the work administration stuff done.​

Q: Sports fans are staying at home too - recommend a book/film and box set please.​

A: There's a football documentary on Netflix called 'Sunderland 'Til I Die' which is really great. My Irish team-mate Megan Frazer's cousin, Darron Gibson, the Republic of Ireland international, makes an appearance in it. There is a follow-up being released next month, so I am looking forward to watching that.​ I would recommend the American legal drama 'Suits' as a box set. That is an easy watch if you're bored. As for books, I'd recommend anything by Stephen King or John Grisham as those authors are well worth a binge read.​


Darron Gibson during his spell at Sunderland.

Darron Gibson during his spell at Sunderland.

Darron Gibson during his spell at Sunderland.


Q: What life lessons are you learning from this crisis?​

A: I have learned to appreciate who really deserves recognition and praise and to just really appreciate the things that actually matter in life.​ My best friend is a nurse and my sister is a doctor and they put themselves on the front line daily to support those affected. ​They are a daily inspiration and when you see the work our health services are doing all over the world it really puts into perspective how undervalued they are. ​

Q: When this is all over, what's the first thing you'll do?​

A: Hopefully see my mum and dad. Mother's Day wasn't the same this year for obvious reasons but we managed to have an online family get-together through FaceTime with my mum and dad, sisters, niece and nephew which was nice and apart from that I spent the day at home and went for a run.​ I also miss squad training with my club Pegasus and Ireland so I am looking forward to that resuming.​

Q: What's your message to fans?

A: My message is a simple one - follow all the advice that has been given about social distancing and personal hygiene, stay at home as much as you can and save lives. Safety is paramount in such uncertain times so we all just have to stay safe and be patient.

Belfast Telegraph