‘I know what happened was wrong but everybody is being tarred with the same brush’

GALWAY CAMOGIE STAR Siobhán McGrath has spoken out about how difficult the Covid-19 pandemic has been for students, who are “all being tarred by the same brush” after recent concerning scenes in Limerick.

A University of Limerick [UL] student, McGrath was asked about last week’s street party near the college during a media briefing yesterday. 

Videos shared widely on social media showed large groups flouting Covid-19 social distancing guidelines while drinking on the streets in the Carysfort Avenue area of Castletroy last Tuesday.

Three people were arrested and more than 50 people were fined after gardaí responded to a public order incident. One of those arrested has been charged and will appear before Limerick District Court on 22 March. 

While condemning the unsavoury scenes, McGrath — a second-year student currently on remote teaching placement — was keen to point out that UL has been beyond supportive of its students throughout the pandemic. 

“I definitely think all students are being tarred by that [same] brush, I suppose,” she said.

“I know it’s well documented what happened in UL, but I can only speak from my own experience and UL are very good in sending out emails all the time and giving us loads of information on Covid and how to behave and stuff.

“Yeah, what happened in UL was bad, of course. But I think at the same time there was a lot of outrage, you can’t expect to keep students locked up forever either. I know there are a lot of different stories going around, but a lot of what I saw as well was kind of exaggerated really.

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I know obviously what happened was wrong but everybody is kind of being tarred with the same brush. UL has a student population of 17,000. If you were to count how many people were actually there involved in those videos, that’s a very very small percentage of students.”

Before being asked for her opinion on the incident in question, 19-year-old McGrath spoke about how tough lockdown has been for students, and how she feels particularly sorry for current first years.

“It’s extremely difficult. You go from seeing your friends in college all the time to nothing then, sitting in your bedroom most of the day on your laptop.

“You are not really getting a proper college experience and I suppose I’m not really getting my teaching practice experience that would stand to you in a few years. Everybody is in the same boat, you are not unique or anything, it is all just about getting through it and hopefully every day is a day closer to getting back to normality.”

Looking to on-field matters, Sarsfields All-Ireland winning forward McGrath “100%” believes it is time for the Camogie Association and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] to amalgamate with the GAA, echoing the common feeling among players.

I think it can only have positives for Camogie and ladies football. Unfortunately it does seem kind of like it’s more Camogie and ladies football that are kind of not really reaching out in the correct way to try and get it amalgamated.

“I can only speak from my own experience here in UL, the GAA club is all the one and you can really see the benefits of that. It would only be the same really if they all went under the same umbrella. Here in UL we get the same supports, resources and all that. I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to pool all your resources.

“I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to pool all your resources, all that together. It’d only have positives for everyone. I don’t understand really why it hasn’t happened yet. I mean, it’s 2021 and we’re still three separate organisations. It really doesn’t make sense.”

Siobhán McGrath (right) with Erica Leslie after the All-Ireland win last March.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Siobhán is one of four sisters synonymous with Sarsfields camogie. She’s the youngest of the siblings back-boning the side that is managed by their father, Galway hurling great, Michael ‘Hopper’.

Niamh, Clodagh and Orlaith are her elders, with the latter joining Siobhán on the county panel.

The deadly attacking duo combined for 1-7 to seal the side’s first-ever All-Ireland senior club championship crown last March after decider defeats in 2017 and 2018, and in turn, ended Slaughtneil’s four-in-a-row bid.

Their own two-in-a-row tilt has been put on hold by lockdown 3.0, however, with national semi-finals originally slated in for 6/7 February 2021 and the final for last weekend.

Sarsfields remain in limbo, McGrath says.

It’s a strange one. Still up in the air really. The Camogie Association haven’t come out and said it’s cancelled so as a player you still have that small glimmer of hope but as the weeks are going on, it is harder to see when they can fit it in.

“You have to be of the mindset that it is going ahead until you get official confirmation. We’re trying to stay ticking over at home. Before Christmas we had great hope for it, we thought everything would be fine. It is up in the air and in fairness to Camogie, it is hard for them to give a date. No one knows what’s happening.”

As remains the case across the board. 

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All McGrath knows is she can’t wait to get back with Galway, having enjoyed her first year on the senior panel as a 16-year-old in 2017, before taking a year out for her Leaving Cert in 2019.

Unfortunately for her, Galway won the All-Ireland that year. It was understandably gutting, so much so that she wasn’t in Croke Park that day.

“It was kind of tough for me, it was a tough one to take more than anything. Of course I was delighted, absolutely delighted for the girls because you play with them all the time.

“You see the dedication that they put into it so I was absolutely delighted for them. Of course you’re sickened that you’re not involved yourself but I was delighted then to be back in 2020. I suppose you’re still kind of chasing that All-Ireland that you missed out on.

“Hopefully 2021 will bring a bit more success.”

It’s started on a positive note anyway, with Orlaith bagging her first All-Star at the weekend.

“She really deserved one this year, fantastic all year long,” Siobhán nods. “It’s lovely now she is joining Niamh, they both have All-Stars so you feel a bit of pressure coming on yourself!

“You’d just be so happy for her, it’s nothing less than she deserves. Delighted for Shauna Healy as well, she was in the running for Player of the Year too and rightly so. Hopefully this year we will have more than just two involved in the All-Star team.”

– Siobhán McGrath was speaking yesterday as the GPA announced that 100 female inter-county players have been awarded scholarship funding as they continue their third-level studies. 

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