A hero on and off the field, Noelle Healy has certainly left the Dublin jersey in a better place

Updated Apr 19th 2021, 8:34 PM

Noelle Healy celebrating after the 2017 All-Ireland final.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

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AS THE ALL-CONQUERING Dublin ladies football panel reconvenes this week, there’ll be at least one notable absentee — and massive loss — following Noelle Healy’s inter-county retirement.

The five-time All-Ireland winner’s departure was announced this morning, one of the greatest players to play the game bringing the curtain down on a glittering career.

Most female Gaelic games stars retire quietly, often an Irish goodbye with no official announcements. Healy opted to exit stage left with a statement released by Dublin LGFA early this morning, but on a crazy day where association football has imploded, it’s news that may be overshadowed and buried. It’s important that it’s not.

Not only does Healy finish up as a Dublin legend, she does so as a ladies football one.

Her remarkable list of achievements says it all: five Celtic Crosses, four All-Stars, 2017 Footballer of the Year, 10 Leinster crowns, one Division 1 league title, and two Division 2 medals since making her debut in ‘07. Before that, she lifted the top gongs at U14, U16 and minor level.

Healy after the 2010 win.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

She’s won pretty much everything there is to be won in the inter-county game, and has done so in style. A big game player if ever there was one, Healy has produced some huge performances on the biggest stage.

Instrumental through Mick Bohan’s side’s four-in-a-row journey, her engine and athleticism, pace and power, have been a huge assets, as she played a central role in their unrivalled running game.

Healy did a lot of “dirty work”, a term so often used in Gaelic games. Yes, she was a star forward, but she was constantly tracking back and providing for others, so often starting team moves in defence, which she would, in turn, finish at the other end.

She was their “10% kicker and 90% carrier,” as Mick Bohan said in Blues Sisters.

Noëlle Healy was so often the clutch player for Dublin – tracking back, providing for others, hitting scores at key junctures.This point from the 2019 All Ireland Final typifies it all. Dublin’s last score, to seal 3-in-a-row. Look where she started, look at the finish. Superb 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/NePuTMobaR

— Elaine Buckley (@ElaineBucko) April 19, 2021

Case in point was her Player of the Match-winning display in the 2017 All-Ireland final win over Mayo. She was nothing but devastating in Croke Park that day, a joy to watch as she and her team-mates put the pain of losing three finals on the bounce to be crowned champions for the first time since 2010 — and second time ever. She certainly typified the hunger of the group, and has represented them with distinction through the crest of the wave they’ve ridden ever since.

Again, she was their clutch player through the 2020 campaign, all while working as an intensive care doctor on the frontline through the Covid-19 pandemic. She stood up where required and kicked pivotal scores at key junctures, particularly in their thrilling semi-final meeting against Armagh.

The 1-7 she clocked across four games was hugely important, and she was honoured with a place in the Team of the Championship.

That’s without mentioning her club exploits; a stalwart with St Brigid’s through the years, having also helped Cork kingpins Mourneabbey to All-Ireland senior glory in 2019 while on a 12-month stint at Cork University Hospital. 

In action for Mourneabbey.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

She was a key player through that run, and set up Laura Fitzgerald’s last-gasp winning point in the final. National club glory was the icing on the cake after balancing a hectic year of club and county between Leeside and the capital and her work as an anaesthetist.

Still just 30, it appears Healy has opted to place her full focus on her career, while she’ll undoubtedly continue to line out with St Brigid’s, firmly rooted on home soil having worked between Temple Street and St James’s of late.

On and off the field, Healy has been a huge role model through the years, becoming a household name as the profile of the game lifted.

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With increased visibility, that was possible, Healy always carrying herself admirably and a pleasure to deal with, a really lovely person epitomising the group.

Incredible athlete on the field and a great friend off it – who also gives the best hugs! You definitely left the @dublinladiesg jersey in a better place. Thanks for the memories @NoelleHealy and here’s to creating many more 🙌🏻 💙 pic.twitter.com/vT1SZzw1nm

— Sinead Goldrick (@Goldieface) April 19, 2021

“Putting the Dublin jersey on means an awful lot,” she said in Blues Sisters, summing up everything she’s about.

“When I was younger, somebody said to me that they’d never wear a Dublin jersey going to a game or as a supporter, they feel like it’s something that you need to earn.

“Once you get the chance to have it, you want to be able to bring it to as far a place as you can and to be able to achieve as much in it. It’s not about where you have the jersey, it’s where you leave it.”

One thing is for sure, she certainly leaves it in a better place.

The question now is will others follow suit ahead of the Drive for Five, or will Healy be the only notable absentee due to retirement among the players when they gather this week ?

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