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Hurling

"We have to use 'heroes' more sparingly" | Paper Review on returning medical staff

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

17:09 29 Mar 2020

The Sunday Paper Review continues to be clouded by the threat of COVID-19, as the coronavirus pandemic takes firmer hold of the continent of Europe.

But from under that cloud can be seen rays of light, as Irish doctors and nurses return to the country from countries across the globe.

It is a sad fact that it takes a crisis to make the nation realise the sadness that such talented young men and women feel the need to leave, and stay away.

During the Sunday Paper Review, Kieran Shannon picked the Sunday Times' excellent piece with Tom Devine, the former Waterford hurler who has returned to the island after living in New Zealand.

"In the piece, near the top, it reminds you that the government pleaded with people who would have trained through our system here to come back and help with the cause.

"It brought home to me how we treated our student doctors and nurses through the years. Our student nurses are now, rightly, getting paid. As we know, our nurses have been underpaid for decades. Our health services have been under-resourced for decades."

It was a particular issue for Shannon because it was not long since he met a GAA player that was retraining, but also resigned to leaving Ireland.

9 May 2019; Cathal Freeman of Mayo and Dermot Begley of Tyrone who will compete in the Nicky Rackard Cup in attendance at the official launch of Joe McDonagh, Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Competitions at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"I interviewed at the start of the year the Tooreen and Mayo hurler, Cathal Freeman, who would have also been on the fringes of the Mayo football panel years ago," said Shannon.

"I met him in UL, where he has gone back to study medicine in his late 20s. He is a fantastic person with great views on GAA's sense of community.

"One thing that he said, that I am not sure made it into the piece, was him saying: 'We are just going to be going abroad here.'

"That is what the Irish health system does. We train excellent doctors and nurses and then they go, because we haven't prioritised them through the years.

"The line has been used by the Taoiseach, and Malachy Clerkin of his experience going to get tested in Croke Park - we have got to be using the word 'heroes' more sparingly. They are not all on our sports fields.

"Someone like Tom Devine is both ways; here is someone that was doing his travelling in New Zealand and now he is helping out in the real battle.

"We use the word 'battle' a lot in relation to the gladiatorial warrior game that is hurling, but Tom Devine really is now a warrior and a hero.

"As a society, we have to put a higher premium on these people because we now realise all the more how dependent we are on them."

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