Cork dual star's travel plans disrupted by Covid-19 sporting shutdown

Cork dual star's travel plans disrupted by Covid-19 sporting shutdown
Hannah Looney, Cork, turns away from a challenge from Orla Dwyer, Tipperary in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Senior Championship clash at CIT. Picture: Larry Cummins.

CORK inter-county ladies football and camogie star Hannah Looney’s on- and off-field plans have been disrupted following the Covid-19 outbreak.

The four-time All-Ireland camogie champion, Aghada footballer and Killeagh camogie player established herself as one of Cork’s most consistent performers during the early months of the 2020 Lidl LGFA National Football League campaign.

Then, a global pandemic halted all GAA activities but proved an even bigger disruption to the 23-year-old’s immediate plans.

Hannah works for MSD Brinny, an integrated site for the development, testing and manufacturing of biologics.

The Cork star decided to take up an offer to work in the company’s Dutch plant for a year, beginning next October. Naturally, Hannah had envisaged that all her 2020 inter-county commitments would be over and done with by that stage and was preparing for an important period in her life, though away from the GAA pitch.

“Things have been thrown out of the window for me as I am planning on moving to the Netherlands with work next October,” she told the Echo.

“My goals at the start of this year were to give absolutely everything I had to both football and camogie and hopefully win two All-Ireland titles with Cork. Right now, I don’t really know where those sporting goals are because of the pandemic.

“There is no guarantee that there will be any GAA championships this year so the timing (of Covid-19) has been hugely unfortunate for me.

“It might mean my plans are just temporarily deviated though. Every inter-county player has had their eyes opened since the lockdown began. Club players too, they dedicate so much of their lives to their sport only to have it temporarily taken away.

“In any case, I very much intend to come back and have very strong careers with both the Cork camogie and football squads once I have completed my time working abroad.”

Hannah is not the only player to put their club and inter-county careers on hold. Clonakilty duo Mark White and David Lowney are two other Cork players that announced they were taking time away from club and county to travel. It is becoming a growing trend for GAA players in their early to mid-20s, not just in Cork, but all over the country.

Gemma O’Connor and Hannah Looney celebrate beating Kilkenny in 2018. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Gemma O’Connor and Hannah Looney celebrate beating Kilkenny in 2018. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

“I believe taking a year out is a hugely important step for any young person, especially the opportunity to experience completely different things in a foreign country,” said Hannah.

“It was very encouraging to hear about David Lowney and other GAA players’ positive experiences. I suppose I have been living in something of a bubble since I was a child in that all I ever wanted to do was play for Cork.

“Winning All-Ireland’s is all I wanted, and I was fortunate to break into the Cork senior camogie team when I was just 17. That was around the time of my Leaving Cert as well so I never really had that period or opportunity to take a step back.

“There were no long holidays, J1’s or anything like that. It was a case of straight into one GAA season after another. I don’t regret that at all but and wouldn’t change all the moments I’ve enjoyed with either my club or my county. For me, I just feel it is time to step back, while I’m young, and do things that will stand to both my long-term sporting and working careers.

“As disappointing as it would be not to play any GAA this year, I believe that I made the right decision to go and work in the Netherlands.

Hannah Looney in action against Olive McCafferty of Donegal. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Hannah Looney in action against Olive McCafferty of Donegal. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“Sport is an amazing thing and has given me so much. I hope it has more to give me in time to come but you have to take opportunities like this [working abroad] when they come along. I know I’d definitely regret not taking a chance like this.”

Hannah made the decision to pack away the Cork inter-county gear and focus on her career in a foreign country for a year. Despite Covid-19’s outbreak, time is still on the talented footballer and camogie player’s side. Irrespective of what happens over the coming months, one of Cork’s greatest football and camogie exports will be back in a red jersey before too long.

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