Mayo ace Maeve still has an eye on world championships in Canada
IT is only eight weeks since Maeve Gallagher lifted the Melissa Patterson Memorial Cup in front of more than 400 applauding guests in Breaffy House Hotel, Castlebar, having been selected as the 2019 Connaught Telegraph Mayo Young Female Athlete of the Year award winner.
Little did Maeve realise then that her sporting and indeed her academic plans for 2020 would be turned upside down by a virus that spread from Asia to Ireland and beyond.
However, the 18-year-old Swinford athlete is still optimistic about the possibilities of seeing some action before the end of the year and feels the World Triathlete Championships, pencilled in for next September in Canada, may still go ahead, but like so many athletes, she is uncertain as to how 2020 will pan out from a sporting perspective.
"To be honest, I hadn’t planned to take part in as many major races this summer.
"I’m just trying to adapt to the new reality. Before the Leaving Cert I really had nothing in mind so in some ways it is working in my favour."
So how has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on her personal and sporting life?
"It all just went by us very fast. We’re living through history really. I’ve just accepted it and am not dwelling on it.
"I mean it is so hard for so many people who have suffered and have been personally affected by this pandemic.”
She had already got the year off to a flying start with a trip to South Africa last February, where she came sixth in an elite field of triathletes but less than four weeks later she found herself in lockdown with her family outside Swinford.
"We are fortunate to have plenty of space around the house and in many ways it is great to be at home and be able to spend more time with my family.
"The pool is what I miss the most as it is part of the training for any triathlete.
"I’m fine with the cycling and running as I have a turbo trainer bike and there are a few fields around the house which I have made tracks on and I cycle those on an old mountain bike I have.
"Where we live there is also a handy 5k cycle loop, which my younger brother (Pearse) and I cycle on a regular basis," she said.
Spending time at home is something she hasn’t always had much time to do given the hectic schedule and amount of travel she has done over the last few years in particular.
Maeve now has a bit of time to look at the bigger picture, and that includes her future education.
The sport will follow in its own time depending on where she pitches her tent, said the St. Joseph’s Secondary School (Castlebar) student, who will be sitting her exams at the end of July if that date still holds.
"I’m hoping to do pharmacy in Cork or Dublin but I’ve also gone through the UK system and there is a scholarship offer from Queens University in Belfast."
The fact there is a scholarship and Queens have a very active triathlete team and a very good swimming club would suggest that Maeve might be assuaged towards the north when she comes to a final decision on her future studies.
"The course would come first as there is no point going to a college because of sport if you discover you are stuck in a course you don’t like, so the course would be important first but obviously sport too is important and I have to say Queens looks very attractive," was her very sensible assessment of where she might go, and why.
At the moment she is keeping her mind and body in shape as she prepares to sit her exam but it does seem she couldn’t be in better place than at home with her family waiting for this pandemic cloud to pass.
She explains her training regime: "From a fitness point of view I’m not pushing it too hard. I’m just maintaining my levels of conditioning and fitness.
"If I was planning for competitions you would have to taper down your fitness work ahead of the event so it is actually easier for me now as I can just maintain the necessary level to keep my body in good shape through the turbo cycling and running.
"I’m working a bit more on stretch exercises and body toning as you tend to neglect those when you are just running or cycling, so I have more time to maintain my body and that also helps in avoiding injuries."
In the latter department she has been very fortunate.
"I have had a few falls off the bike and some bruises but nothing that has really set me back so I’ve been lucky in the injury department."
Maeve likes nothing more than a walk with her dog to relax and she herself seems in a much more relaxed frame of mind as she enters what is likely to be the critical period of her life as she moves to college and out into that big bright world, a world that may never be the same again, but Maeve Gallagher has so far been able to meet all the challenges that have come her way.