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Coronavirus Q&A with Claire McLaughlin: 'We're in the calm before the storm in hospital but I'm relying on God's strength to get me through


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Ireland rugby player Claire McLaughlin is currently hard at work as a doctor in the Ulster Hospital A&E.

Ireland rugby player Claire McLaughlin is currently hard at work as a doctor in the Ulster Hospital A&E.

Claire McLaughlin

Claire McLaughlin

Claire McLaughlin in action for Ireland

Claire McLaughlin in action for Ireland

Ireland rugby player Claire McLaughlin is currently hard at work as a doctor in the Ulster Hospital A&E.

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 Ireland international rugby player and doctor Claire McLaughlin.

Q. How are you keeping?

A. I'm doing well, thanks. This is a bit of a strange time right now, and day to day it's hard to know how to feel, but I'm currently healthy and happy, working and training away.

Q. How have you been affected?

A. Sports-wise, for me the main thing that's been affected is rugby and the season being cut short. There's real uncertainty about when it might kick off again, so for now it's just about trying to keep fit while we're in this 'off-season' period. For me, this allows me to focus fully on rehab after having a frustrating season with a niggly ankle injury.

Day to day, I'm working as a doctor in the Ulster Hospital A&E. I've definitely been working a lot more hours over the past couple of weeks, and I'd say that will continue for the foreseeable. At the moment, we're experiencing the calm before the storm with regards Covid-19, which is a bit unsettling, as we're expecting it to get much more hectic over the next few weeks.

Outside of that, a few events and trips have been cancelled - my friend's wedding, my boyfriend's 30th birthday trip to Toulouse, numerous hen parties... it's been gutting but obviously the most important thing right now is that we reduce the spread of the virus, and play our part to help decrease the impact it could have.

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Claire McLaughlin

Claire McLaughlin

Claire McLaughlin

Q. How are you keeping fit?

A. I plan to come out of this time fitter than before. I've borrowed some weights and have a nice little home gym set up to keep me strong - and sane - and I've actually just treated myself and purchased a Wattbike. I can't wait for it to arrive. I'm also doing two or three running sessions each week as part of my rehab/fitness.

Q. How are you keeping morale up? Is there much contact with team-mates?

A. We have a WhatsApp group with a weekly workout challenge, after which we have to post selfies and our scores, and there's usually a bit of banter. It's a good way to stay motivated, seeing everyone else training away and sending in the sweaty selfies!

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

A. With so much uncertainty and this being such an anxious time, with not knowing how bad the virus might get, I'm definitely drawing my strength from God. Knowing that He is in control and He cares about us and our struggles through this gives me a real peace. I definitely do have worries about the impact this virus could have on family members, friends and our communities, but for me it's about taking each day as it comes and relying on God's strength to carry me through.

Q. With sports fans staying home, can you recommend a book or box set?

A. I would recommend Brian O'Driscoll and Dan Carter's autobiographies. I'm also keen to read Rory Best's recent book. Other books I've enjoyed recently fall into the health/wellbeing category - 'Why We Sleep' by Prof Matthew Walker and 'The Chimp Paradox' by Prof Steve Peters were really interesting. I barely ever watch TV, but I would 100% recommend Prison Break and Grey's Anatomy.

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Claire McLaughlin in action for Ireland

Claire McLaughlin in action for Ireland

Claire McLaughlin in action for Ireland

Q. Are there life lessons you can learn from this crisis?

A. I'm definitely learning what's important in life - not being able to see friends or family has been really difficult, so it's made me appreciate how important these connections are. It's also made me realise how privileged we are to have the freedom to do what we want, when we want.

Q. When this is all over, what's the first thing you will do?

A. I will go to see my boyfriend, and my friends and family. I will probably take some time off work, and hopefully plan a trip away somewhere. I also can't wait to go out for brunch and coffee again!

Q. What message do you have for sports fans?

A. I would say be patient, sport will be back. I heard a guy chatting about the coronavirus and sport last week and he said, "Of all the things that don't matter at all, sport is the most important". I think that rings true for a lot of people. There's a reason we all use our free time to train or watch men, women and children run around a field with a ball - it captivates us, unites us, and brings us such enjoyment.

Obviously people are going to miss not having it, but we have to face up to the bigger picture - the important thing now is to protect ourselves and our communities, and do what we can to reduce the spread of coronavirus. So the key is to follow the government and public health guidance - stay at home, leave only to do the essentials, keep your distance from others and, of course, wash your hands!

Belfast Telegraph