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'It's an insight into what life will be like after football' - Dublin All-Star firefighter focusing on the frontline

Lyndsey Davey was planning to retire from inter-county duty after this season, her 17th campaign in the Sky Blue jersey.

Updated Jun 3rd 2020, 8:19 AM

2020, OR CAMPAIGN number 17, was meant to be her last.

Dublin star Lyndsey Davey had planned to retire from inter-county football after this season, but uncertainty now reigns due to the Covid-19-enforced shutdown

lyndsey-davey-celebrates-with-the-trophy Lyndsey Davey celebrating Dublin's 2018 All-Ireland final win. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Davey, a firefighter with Dublin Airport Fire Service, may well see her chance to say her farewells on the field of play robbed — but that’s to the back of her mind right now.

With all Gaelic games activity at a standstill, the multiple All-Ireland winning and All-Star forward’s entire focus is on her day job.

“It’s probably just been a bit of a surreal situation for everyone,” the Skerries Harps forward tells The42. “Like overnight, things just changed.

“We were at training one night and things were starting to get a bit more serious and we were wondering if we’d be okay for the following week and then literally overnight, it was gone.

I’m lucky in a sense that I’ve been working so I’ve kind of kept some sort of normality in my life and been able to keep ticking over but I suppose with football gone, it’s just all a bit mad.

The 30-year-old is so accustomed to balancing work commitments and hectic 12-hour shifts with inter-county football, so this change of pace is quite strange.

“The shift work, that’s tough enough as it,” she nods, “and then you’re juggling four or five training sessions a week on top of that. That’s just gone now and you’re just focusing on work.

It gives you a bit of insight into what life will be like after football. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, which isn’t a bad thing either. It’s probably a good way of easing into it, I suppose. It’s a good insight for down the line.”

In terms of Davey’s work day and her responsibilities on the job, not much has changed. The fire service is vital for flights being able to land, and the main priority is keeping the airport running as best as possible. 

While conditions can be stressful at times, Davey counts herself lucky to be able to contribute through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s probably business as usual for us in the station,” she explains. “We specialise in aviation emergencies once there’s flights still coming in, which obviously there is but it’s mainly just cargo now and a few repatriation flights.

Obviously we’re open if there are any emergencies over the Atlantic, we’d be the last point-of-call and we’ve had a few aircraft diverting in with emergencies so that’s what we’re there to respond to, if anything goes wrong from an aviation side.

“Our focus would be on the airfield and looking after aircraft coming in. Obviously there’s far less movement than there was before, so a lot of our focus now would be on just maintaining, with wildlife activity — obviously with less movement, more wildlife come in.

“We just have to make sure we’re on the ball in terms of just managing wildlife activity with bird scaring because obviously they pose a massive threat to the aircrafts. We just need to make sure that on the airfield, we’re constantly keeping on top of that so all the aircraft can take off safely and there are no issues with birds.”

Screenshot 2020-06-02 at 16.44.09 Davey joined the Dublin Airport Fire Service in 2015. Source: Nemeton TV.

“There’s definitely been a massive change in terms of the terminal,” she adds. “We’ve gone from having, I think, just over one hundred thousand passengers a day to now only a couple of hundred.

It’s such a change but hopefully as the weeks go on now, things will start picking up. It’s just so hard to see when things will kind of get back to normal but I think from an aviation side of things, it could be a long time until we’re back to the same pace that we were at.”

On the other hand, football is the polar opposite of business as usual with all Gaelic games activity at a standstill since 12 March.

Having said one more year for quite some time now and having planned to hang up her Sky Blue jersey for good at the end of her 17th season, Davey laughs that it’s almost typical this would happen.

“I know,” she grins. “I was very adamant that this is definitely my last year.”

She acknowledges her All-Ireland three-in-a-row winning side’s turbulent start to the league campaign with so many players falling victim to injury and a period of adjustment as new faces were blooded, and notes how frustrating it was that all was called to a halt as everything started looking up.

Top stars like Sinéad Aherne and Noelle Healy had just made their seasonal returns while the injured trio of Siobhán McGrath, Nicole Owens and Siobhán Killeen were all recovering and eyeing their respective reinstations.

“It’s probably disappointing in that sense because I was really looking forward to the summer ahead,” Davey continues. “I suppose the thing is, we don’t know what’s going to happen down the line.

“It’s still all up in the air at the moment: will there not be a championship or will there?

“For me personally, I’d love to think that there’ll be some sort of championship at the end of the year, provided obviously it’s safe to do so. And I know probably a lot of girls would be in the same boat but I suppose it depends where you’re at in your career.

Like I said, I was probably hoping for this to be the last year so it would be nice to play some sort of football. It’s definitely not how I’d like to finish out my career with Dublin. Depending what happens this year, there could be a lot of big decisions that will have to be made next year.”

Uncertainty reigns over Gaelic games’ comeback, and the pathway to a full return to action for ladies football is still unclear. If and when games will return is undecided, as many people feel there may be no football in 2020. 

While the TG4 All-Ireland championship will not take place in the format and timeline as planned, Davey is unsure of the best option going forward as debate rages on.

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“Ah, it’s really hard to know what’s the best way because there’s a lot of things that have to be put in place in terms of safety. The safety of the players comes first, so if it’s too high of a risk, the sensible thing to do would obviously be to defer things to next year.

“Like I said, from a personal preference, I would love to play some sort of football. I suppose everyone at the top level would be the same, they just want to play as much football as they can.

lyndsey-davey On the ball during last September's All-Ireland final. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“But it obviously depends on people’s personal circumstances at home. If you have someone vulnerable at home, you’re not going to want to put yourself in that risk of going back training or playing.

“It’s a really tough one but hopefully in the next month, a decision will be made with the committee. Hopefully we’ll have a better insight but it’s a really hard one to call.

“With club, it’s very hard to monitor the amount of club games whereas with county, there’s a lot less games and it’s probably easier to control but then again, there’s also more members playing club football. It’s just a really hard decision to make but at the end of the day, I think the safety of players is going to be the main priority.”

One thing she does know is she’s seriously missing her team-mates and the team environment.

While Davey is tipping away and doing her own training at home, nothing beats putting in a hard shift alongside team-mates and friends, whether that be at county or club.

“That’s definitely the one thing a lot of us have hit home: just how much you actually value being around the players on your team, and just missing the social interactions and the craic that you have at training. They’re your family and to not be around them for so long, I think a lot of us are finding it difficult.

But the one positive aspect of the lockdown has been just the amount of goodwill from the communities with different charities.”

Skerries Harps have participated in two fundraisers for two former players who sadly passed away of late. The team ran a marathon during the month of May to raise funds for Jane’s House in memory of the late Jane Dardis. Over €12,000 has been donated so far.

Davey’s side also took part in a one million step challenge to remember Sarah Jane Branagan. The money raised there — almost €45,000 to date — will go towards Pieta House.

“The goodwill from different communities has just been fantastic,” she notes, adding that the constant communication and organisation has been a help.

“There’s so many charities across the GAA that have been doing different fundraisers for such great causes. Even the Do It For Dan campaign was a prime example, they raised over €2 million. We raised a lot of money for some very good causes.”

And it certainly puts everything into perspective.

Absolutely. As much as you miss the girls, it does give you an insight into how different people are struggling through this. The mental health side of things, it’s going to be a massive thing down the line.

“I suppose it shows you just the value of exercise and how good it is for your health.

“I’ve never seen so many people out walking and cycling! It’s fantastic to see so many people getting out and looking after their mental health.”

Aside from work, the bit of training and serious club fundraising efforts, Davey has been keeping in touch with her Dublin team-mates and the management team on Zoom, between meetings to check in with everyone, cook-offs and quizzes.

lyndsey-davey-and-sarah-fagan-celebrate-after-the-game-with-the-brendan-martin-cup Celebrating the 2019 All-Ireland final win over Galway. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

It’s been a nice opportunity to reflect on her service to Dublin so far too, to take stock of a sparkling senior inter-county career that began at the age of just 14. Since first joining the panel in 2004, Davey — an underage soccer international in the past too — has won four All-Irelands and five All-Stars.

It’s about much more than that though, as she’s come to learn in the latter days of her career.

“I’m very lucky to have had such a fantastic career with Dublin,” Davey concludes.

“Obviously there’s been plenty of highs and lows over the years but we’ve been kind of going strong there the past couple years with Mick [Bohan] coming on board. You just feel very privileged to be in those positions.

It’s just you miss the friendships over the past couple weeks, not being able to see the girls. When you’re going out training, it’s just the bonds and the craic that you have with the the girls, that’s what it’s all about.

“Definitely when I look back, I’m just very lucky for the friendships that I’ve gained over the last couple of years with Dublin. That’s definitely something I’ll miss.

“But like I said, we’ll see how the year goes. We’re all uncertain of what’s going to happen but I’ll be clinging on to some hope that there will be some sort of football at the end of this!”

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Emma Duffy

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