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10th Oct 2020

“Sure, feck it, what have you got to lose?” – One of Louise Galvin’s smartest ever plays

Patrick McCarry

Louise Galvin

“Rugby is about what you are doing on the field and how much you are willing to work for the person inside and outside of you.”

There is a picture of Louise Galvin doing what she does best, in the Sportsfile archives, for her Listowel basketball team back in 2002 – competing.

18 years ago, Galvin was taking part in the Bank of Ireland Schools Cup, U16 ‘A’ final at the National Basketball Arena, in Tallaght, and giving it socks. Sport has been part of her make-up for well over two decades now, but she is finally winding it down.

Galvin has represented, and won silverware with, Kerry at inter-county level and played for the UL Huskies in the Women’s Premier League as well as representing Ireland in Rugby Sevens and in 15s [at the 2017 World Cup and 2018 Six Nations]. Last month, she announced her retirement from the Sevens game, but is not quite done with it yet.

“Yeah, I’m absolutely gob-smacked, to be honest,” says Galvin of her nomination for Sevens Player of the Year at the upcoming 2020 Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards, which will be broadcast on Virgin Media Two on Saturday, October 17.

“I’m not sure if my teammates were just giving me a nice bit of applause out the door, or something like that! I definitely didn’t expect it. I guess it’s been a strange year. The season was nowhere near as long as we expected it to be.”

Such is the globe-trotting nature of the Sevens game that it has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. All events were postponed or cancelled from the end of March onwards and no firm dates have been provided the the 2021 World Series yet.

The increased uncertainty around the sport combined with Galvin’s increasing work commitments – she has recently taken up a full-time position with the Health Service Executive in Dublin – was enough of a nudge for the 33-year-old to call time on her rugby career.

The Kerry native only came into the Irish Rugby set-up at the age of 27 when a real focus came on the creation of a Sevens team that would ultimately join that World Series circuit. Athletes competing in basketball, football, soccer and hockey were looked at and many were invited in for trials. Galvin took to the sport quickly and never looked back.

Galvin jokes that she ‘hadn’t a notion what I was doing’ in her first 15s camps but she enjoyed the extra space and responsibility of playing Sevens. She had just been promoted in her physiotherapy job, in Limerick, but opted for a career-break to pursue the rugby dream.

“Sure feck it, what have you got to lose?” Galvin recalls of her thought process, back in 2015. The idea was to ‘give it a year’ but she had so much fun, and became such an integral team member, that she ended up playing over 100 Sevens games for Ireland over the next five.

“The Ireland Sevens squad has such a family environment to it. We don’t go back to any clubs. We stay training, pretty much, 12 months of the year, with the odd week off here and there. Even in lockdown, I was joking with the girls that it was the longest I had gone without seeing them in five years.

“I got engaged over in Dubai, during the World Series, in November (2018) in front of the whole squad. The fact that he [Kerry footballer Donnchadh Walsh] did it there is probably a sign of how important the rugby was to me.

“Then, less than a month later, my dad passed away after a short illness and less than a month later, again, I was back on the field, in Sydney. I remember feeling like I didn’t want to go to that tournament, but also feeling that I had to. And my dad would have said to be, ‘Get on with your job’. He would have been pro getting on with things. We actually had our best ever finish and I think I played every minute too. I was really glad to have contributed to the cause, because the squad and the management had been there for me the whole way. They were the constant.”

After lining out for Ireland for what would prove to be the final time, back in February, Galvin answered Ireland’s Call (for healthcare professionals) and worked at Tullamore Hospital, assisting in the rehab of patients who had been in the Intensive Care Unit due to Covid-19 and other ailments.

“At the moment,” she says, “I have been working with a lot of elderly patients, who have been cocooning and who have lost a lot of their confidence and mobility, and who are feeling lonely. So it’s very rewarding to go in and help them, particularly, because they are the most vulnerable in our society. And though we’ve been protecting them, we’ve also been disabling them so we’re trying to give them that sense of independence again, by keeping fit and healthy in their own homes.”

Louise Galvin goes on the charge against Australia in the 2017 World Cup. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)

Looking ahead to the awards, next weekend, Galvin is genuinely content with the nomination alongside her Sevens teammates Amme-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Kathy Baker.

“Amee-Leigh is an absolute superstar,” she says.

“Last year, she was on the World Series Dream Team and she was top try-scorer for the whole World Series – the first northern hemisphere player to do that. So she must have a trophy cabinet full at this stage. She’s been our Sevens Player of the Year about three times and absolutely deserving each time. She’s a great leader as well and is really, really growing. So she’s not just a try-scorer.

“And then Kathy (Baker) is a product of our underage system. She joined the squad, I remember her coming in, just out of school. She was probably a peripheral member, at first, but she always had a really strong work ethic and always worked on her skills on top of that. Has picked up a few injuries along the way, but her trajectory is very much on the up. She has cemented her starting place this season – probably for the first season – and had a really good tournament in Dubai. She was our Player of the Tournament in Dubai. She is someone who’s going to keep going on the up.”

“Where I’m only hanging up the boots,” Galvin concludes. “Amee-Leigh and Kathy are only going to get better. Nice, young, sound people and really strong players as well. I wish them all the very best.”

Pictured are Louise Galvin and Caelan Doris announcing the nominees for the 2020 Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards. Celebrating the achievements of players both on and off the field, the Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards will be broadcast on Virgin Media Two on Saturday, October 17 after the Heineken Champions Cup Final. (Credit: INPHO)

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