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Dublin: 3°C Monday 12 April 2021

Running together while staying apart, working on the frontline and pride after mother's Laochra Gael

Monaghan star Eimear McAnespie on her team’s fundraiser, nursing through the Covid-19 crisis and her Gaelic football-mad family.

WHILE SPORT IS at a standstill across the length and breadth of the country, everyone seems to have turned to running. And running for a good cause, at that.

Instagram is awash with Run 5, Donate 5, Nominate 5 posts, in which people run 5km, donate €5 to charity and nominate five friends to do the same, while teams across the country have participated in efforts like the Social Distance Digital Relay in aid of Pieta House.

mcanespie Eimear McAnespie and her Monaghan ladies side. Source: SPORTSFILE/Monaghan LGFA.

The Monaghan ladies footballers are another bunch pushing a collective running fundraiser. Their slogan is: “Running together while staying apart,” after ditching their football boots for runners for seven days to raise funds for three brilliant causes.

It all started on Sunday and as a team, they plan to run 1,000km, all keeping within the 2km radius of their homes. With over €7,000 raised towards their €8,000 target already, all donations will go to frontline workers, SOSAD and Do It For Dan.

Like every team across the country, the Farney have several frontliners working endlessly to help others through the Covid-19 crisis. Eimear McAnespie is one of three nurses, alongside Eva Woods and Grainne McNally, while Abbie McCarey works as a podiatrist. 

Just newly-qualified, McAnespie now finds herself in the thick of it in Craigavon Area Hospital, and is thoroughly enjoying the fundraising challenge in her free time.

“The fact that we can’t actually train together and that all football pitches are closed, we just thought it would be a good idea to continue running together while staying apart,” the Emyvale midfielder tells The42.

We thought it would be good to donate whatever we could to three charities. The NHS and the HSÉ; with there being four frontline workers on our team at the minute, we feel it’s a very worthy cause as all healthcare workers are working tirelessly to help fight and overcome the virus. With me nursing on the frontline, it’s great to see the support from your team-mates during these challenging times. Support like this is what will help us get through it at the end of the day.

“The second charity we decided to donate to is SOSAD. As footballers, we all know the importance of trying to stay active and getting out and about for your own mental health and wellbeing.

“The third charity we’re donating to is Do It For Dan. His parents both played football for Laois, and we feel it’s important for the GAA community to come together and help in any way possible.”

“So far, we’ve got a great response,” she smiles. “We’re in day four of it, it’s going great. Yesterday, just to make it more enjoyable and to get more people involved, we had a club colours day.

“All clubs across the county took part and supported our challenge, and then they sent their selfies in. It was great to see all the clubs out in such good numbers. It was definitely very much appreciated by us all.”

Everyone on the panel contributes whatever distance they feel they can on any given day. McAnespie, for example, can’t run every day with work so when she can, she tries to do roughly 10km, while others may opt for 5km.

It has really boosted team morale in these challenging times, she notes, and has given the entire county a lift of sorts.

Definitely. We’re managing this fundraiser while adhering to the guidelines, so I think it should give others inspiration that even if they’re on their own, they can keep in contact and get in touch with others… that we’ll all get through it together, I suppose.

“We actually have a wee app, we can go in and out every day and see what everyone else did. You can send messages of support to keep going. It’s good craic, and it gives you something to do as well on your days off.”

Having qualified in February, the former Queens University student’s main focus now is on fighting the virus in Craigavon. It’s been a rather strange start to full-time nursing life.

“It is very challenging,” McAnespie explains. “I have to be very vigilant in everything I do in order to protect not only obviously the patients, but myself and my family.

“The protocols in work have all changed in order to deal with the pandemic, they all have to be strictly adhered to. There’s challenges, I have to keep myself safe. Coming home from work, before I even say hello to any of the family, I have to shower straight away. I’m not allowed near any of them. Little things like that, but they’re all necessary to help us get over it all.

“I’m in a cardiology ward, but any patients with any cardiac history that test positive have to come to it. There hasn’t been too many, and the numbers of admissions are decreasing. I suppose that’s down to the public adhering to the guidelines, which is good.

But it is very worrying. It’s the unknown going in, and you don’t know what you’re going to be faced with. With me being very newly-qualified, it is very worrying I suppose — but it is new to everyone.

“We just have to work as a team. I’m thankful, I have that skill from my involvement in sport. We just have to work as a team and together we will get through it.”

mcanespie Eimear McAnespie with some of her Emyvale clubmates yesterday. Source: Emyvale LGFA Twitter.

While morale is high among staff, things are very different.

“There’s a one-way system into the hospital and a one-way system out of the hospital,” McAnespie — sister of Monaghan star Ryan, and current star ladies football duo, Aoife and Ciara, adds. “I know in our hospital in Craigavon, you’re not allowed take any food in with you at all. They’re putting us up with food and that.

“So many things have changed. It’s just very worrying because you don’t know what the next day’s going to hold. We’re all keeping positive and hopefully we will get on top of it. As I said, the numbers of admissions are decreasing so if we continue with the social distancing, we will keep on top of it — and hopefully we’ll be on the pitch soon again!”

Football is missed, of course.

The Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] took action on 24 March and cancelled their inter-county leagues, with an announcement yet to be made on the championship.

While McAnespie agrees that it was the right call and she’s happy to comply with expert advice, she’s hopeful that we might see some activity in 2020 yet.

Obviously it was disappointing because we had been doing well in the league. We’re now in Division 2 and we had kind of built up again from there. We have been doing well but obviously this has to be done in order to fight the virus.

“We are still doing our wee trainings but it’s not the same at the end of the day.

“I don’t know with regards sport for 2020 but positivity is something I feel we need at this time, so I do hold on to the hope that if we do what we’re being asked to do that we might see some sporting activity. Hopefully, but I don’t know if we will or not.”

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“I see with the men’s,” she adds, “obviously they have more crowds and stuff, but I doubt theirs will go ahead. But we just have to be hopeful.”

Away from the current madness, excitement is still through the roof in the McAnespie household after the airing of her mother, Brenda’s, Laochra Gael programme.

BRENDA Brenda McAnespie featured on Laochra Gael earlier this month. Source: TG4.

“It was amazing, so it was,” she nods. “We were actually meant to watch it in preview a few weeks ago and have a few of our close family and friends there but obviously, with the virus, that all had to be postponed. It was our first time actually seeing this whenever it was on screen.

“I was sitting beside Aoife, I think, and oh my goodness, we couldn’t ease at all. We were all sitting on the edge. We had it recorded so we watched it back then, and at least we were fit to enjoy it a wee bit more!

You should have seen us, we were all so nervous watching it because you don’t know what you say at the time. But thank goodness, it all went well and it was fantastic. It was a distraction for us all, it was great.

Viewers were blown away by the season finale which mapped the Monaghan great’s glittering career. The fact that Brenda won an All-Ireland while pregnant was one topic that was covered heavily within.

And Eimear — the baby on board — can’t help but giggle when it’s put to her.

I was just laughing like, ‘I can’t believe she done that!’ But as she said, she got the go ahead from the doctor, the doctor said to continue doing what you’re used to doing. She was so used to playing football, so she did it and it done no harm!

One of seven children, they’re all at home bar one at the moment. Eimear is the only one that’s working in the current climate, so she’s happy to get out of the house and take a break from the madness at times, she laughs.

Herself, Ciara, Aoife and 19-year-old Aisling all play for Monaghan ladies — “there’s four of us travelling to and from county training so it’s great craic. It is good having each other and egging each other on as well” — so they’re pushing each other through the fundraising challenge, too.

“At least we can still do our runs together, we can keep each other motivated and support each other through it all,” she concludes. “But it is a wee bit mad in the house at the same time, with all eight of us. It’s good craic all the same, I can’t complain!” 


You can find the GoFund Me page for Monaghan ladies’ ‘Running Together While Staying Apart’ fundraiser here.

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Emma Duffy

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