Galway star Cormican reflects on 'strange' first year as a GP
By John Harrington
After completing 11 years tough years of study, Galway dual-star, Caitriona Cormican, finally achieved her dream of becoming a GP last April.
Considering the Covid-19 pandemic would arrive on these shores 10 months later, it’s fair to say her first year in the job has been a challenging one.
“It was a very, very strange few months,” she told GAA.ie “Initially when we got news that it hit Ireland it was a very worrying time and we just didn't know what was in store for us.
“We were seeing other countries like Italy and worrying that could be us. We didn't know if our hospitals would be able to handle the numbers if they rose too high.
“Overnight we had to change the way we worked as GPs, our normal day-to-day is loads of face-to-face contact and that helps make the special bond you have with your patients.
“Overnight we had to change to phone and video consults and that was solely for the safety of patients and staff. It was a very challenging time.
“When you're so used to seeing people every day and then to be doing consults over the phone was challenging. But you did adapt to it and now the last few weeks we're seeing a lot more patients face-to-face which is great.
“Everyone is wearing masks and were all gowned up but it's great to get a bit of normality back and do what we love again and be able to have that connection.”
The 2019 All-Ireland senior camogie championship winner is also grateful that she’s now able to play the sports she loves again.
“In terms of sport it's such a big part of our lives, especially mine,” she says.
“Not having that was a huge void as well. The fact that nobody else was playing you just got on with it.
“You accepted it was a bit different to say if you were injured, we were all in this together. It was actually meeting people that everyone said they missed, it wasn't the actual being out playing games.
“So it just shows how important sport is as a social aspect and for people's mental health along with physical health.
“This is the new normal now but it's brilliant to be back playing sport and to have a bit more normality back in work as well. But definitely the strangest couple of months that we've ever encountered.”
Yesterday’s Government announcement that the 200-person limit at GAA club matches would not be eased was a bitter pill to swallow for all club supporters desperate to see their teams in action.
Cormican is as disappointed as anyone, but with her GP hat on she understands why a caution-first approach is still the best one.
“I know we're in this month now and people are probably saying, "When is this going to end?" But, you know, the guidelines that are in place and what they're advising, it is for our own safety,” she says.
“We don't have any magic tablet, we don't have a vaccine yet. So the only thing that can prevent the spread is us as humans and following what we're being advised to do.
“So it is really, really important. I know people just want to get back to normality, they want to get back to their friends and everything like that. But we won't be able to if we don't follow what's being instructed.
“And I know it's difficult. But at least we are someways back to normality.
“The guidelines are letting people meet in small groups and we are being able to be back to sports and if we want to continue this then we really have to be diligent and follow the guidelines that are in place.
“The club supporter in me was really hoping that the numbers would increase. I've watched a lot of matches online, I've been streaming them and looking at the empty stadiums and you would feel would it not be possible and safe to social distance higher numbers.
“But I suppose a lot of thought went into these guidelines and maybe they felt that people would be gathering in clusters, they wouldn't be spreading out. You know, going into stadiums, people crowded going into the turnstiles, bathrooms and stuff like that.
“I know it's disappointing and as a club supporter I'm very disappointed I won't be able to go to the games. But, if it means it's for the safety of the supporters and the benefit of their health, then we just have follow those guidelines and hope in the next few weeks that things will change and the numbers will increase.
“For now, we just have to hold tight and follow what the experts are advising.”
Cormican joined up with the Galway Ladies Football team back in 2005 and combined that commitment with also playing intermediate hurling for her county.
In 2018 she decided to concentrate on camogie after getting called up to the senior county team, and admits that winning last year’s All-Ireland title would have been far beyond her ambitions in the not too distant past.
“It was crazy, a complete dream come true. Not even a dream because I wouldn’t have even thought that it would happen.
“A couple of years ago, I was asked to be the team doctor, so at that stage I thought well I’ll never play senior camogie for Galway.
“Then I was lucky enough to get asked in the next year and I couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen so it was just unbelievable, all my dreams came true really.”
She’s 31 now and getting to the stage of her career where she knows the window of opportunity won’t stay open all that much longer.
The experience of the last few months has made her all the more determined to achieve all she can in the game in the time she has left.
“My perspective has definitely changed a lot these last few months,” she says.
“At the start of the year, you were just gunning to get back. But with everything that’s happened now, we just have to take it week by week, month by month to see what’s going to happen.
“But, definitely, my aim would be to win another All-Ireland. All along, my aim was to win one, but now that you have one, you want more.
“As long as everyone’s safe and healthy, that’s what I’d be happy with and we’ll take it from there.”