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Kilkenny camogie star, Grace Walsh. 
Kilkenny camogie star, Grace Walsh. 

Grace Walsh's powerful Covid-19 message

By John Harrington

One of the challenges for the health authorities in recent weeks has been getting the message across to the younger demographic that a burden of responsibility rests on their shoulders in this time of Covid.

They might be at less risk of being made seriously ill by the disease, but they could easily pass it on to an elderly person or someone with pre-existing conditions for whom contracting Covid-19 could be fatal.

Kilkenny camogie star, Grace Walsh, works as a clinical nurse in St. Vincent’s and has used the platform sport has given her to be a strong advocate for taking all the correct hygiene and social distancing precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.

She is now more passionate than ever about getting the message out there having had to self-isolate for two weeks after being identified as a close contact of a healthcare worker who contracted Covid-19.

The toughest thing about that experience was worrying if she had Covid-19 could she have passed it on to one of her patients, and she couldn’t help but think too about how devastating it would be personally if she had to deal with the guilt of thinking she had given it to her parents.

Perhaps the most effective message for young people who might be somewhat blasé about the risk of Covid-19 to themselves is that if they don’t exercise caution they could make someone they love seriously ill or worse.

“You don’t want to have that regret,” says Walsh, who thankfully was given the all clear to return to work recently after twice testing negative for Covid-19.

“You don’t want to get a phonecall and say that you’re a close contact of a Covid case, knowing that you could be positive and you could have infected other people.

“I promise you there will be no worse feeling that putting somebody else at risk, whether it’s an old person, a young person, somebody you don’t even know.

“But if you are following the guidelines and you’re not coming into contact with other people, you’re not going to have that regret. It wasn’t that it was scary for me. I had two swabs and both of them were negative. It was more lonely than anything.

“When I got the call to say I was a close contact, when I hung up the call, I just started to cry and it was nearly a cry of relief more than anything. I actually nearly get emotional thinking about it.

“I was trying to figure out if I was going to move home to Kilkenny and commute for work.

“I suppose with restrictions, I didn’t know if we were able to travel home for training. And when I found out I was still able to go home for training, I went home to my Dublin house that night and the only person I was in contact with was my housemate and when I got off the phone, I got so upset because I was so relieved that I hadn’t been in contact with anybody else.

That was so important because I knew I wasn’t going to have any regrets if I tested positive for Covid. I wasn’t really worried about myself getting Covid. I had no symptoms at all at the time.”

Kilkenny players left to right Grace Walsh, Denise Gaule and Laura Murphy celebrate after the 2016 Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Kilkenny at Croke Park in Dublin.
Kilkenny players left to right Grace Walsh, Denise Gaule and Laura Murphy celebrate after the 2016 Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Kilkenny at Croke Park in Dublin.

Walsh missed Kilkenny’s League campaign this year because of injury, so will make her first start of the season in their championship opener against Waterford on Saturday.

Champions in 2016 and beaten finalists in each of the last three years, Kilkenny are one of the pre-championship favourites for honours, but Walsh believes the unique circumstances of this year’s competition will have levelled the playing field.

“Everybody is coming at the same time, nobody got to train any earlier than anyone else,” she says. “Waterford have just been improving every single year.

“I find playing Waterford is one of the toughest group stages every year, so we’ll definitely be up against it on Saturday.

“It’s anybody’s year this year so no-one knows what’s going to happen this year.

“I'm just excited for the championship to go ahead, that's what we're looking forward to now. We've forgotten about those losses. Nobody really knows what anyone else is doing. Everybody is kind of in the same boat. Some people might have got to train more than others.

“I think this year it's going to come down to...I suppose we all want it the same but it'll be about who's willing to work harder than the other team.

“That's what's most exciting about it, we're going to be playing for the love of the game this year and it's not how many trainings you have under your belt or anything like that, it's just who's going to be willing to work the hardest.”