She was stuck in a rut during lockdown, it was not long after her father passed away and the lack of competitive matches took its toll.
By DARAGH SMALL
Gráinne Harvey ended up taking a step back from the county set-up and although her sister, who was captain of the team at the time, didn’t approve, Gráinne needed some time to clear her head.
Now she is back, the only Harvey in the Clare county set-up in a long time, feeling better than ever and with a clearer mindset about what lies ahead.
“I am flying. I want to be there, I haven’t missed a training. You can give so much to the team then because you are so full of energy,” said Harvey.
“I just think, I just needed that break. I am back and I’m like ‘Jesus, why did you leave?’
“But no, it was the best thing I did.”
The 25-year-old West Clare Gaels defender is one of four sisters who have played for the Clare Ladies in the last decade.
The family is steeped in Clare Ladies football tradition and it was driven on by their late father, Kieran.
Shauna, Ciara, Caoimhe and Gráinne were always destined for the saffron and blue jerseys.
“When you grew up in a family like my Dad’s, I’d say if you didn’t play, he’d make you play,” jokes Gráinne Harvey.
“Every game, you would go out and like he would always be on the sideline. He had a huge dairy farm, we come from a farming background, my sister is running the farm now and is taking it on, but you’d literally think he is there with you.
“You are going to matches and you are like, ‘Jesus, what would Dad say?’
“He gave so much to Clare Ladies. He would eat, sleep and breathe football. It is great representing him too on the day. Of course, every game you are like ‘where is he?’
“My mother would always say, sure he’d be late to confirmation, communions when we were growing up but when it came to a match or the mart or anything like that, he was always on time!”
Kieran Harvey went on to be chairperson of the Clare Ladies Gaelic Football Association.
He also served as Chairman and senior manager with West Clare Gaels and on the Munster Council at committee level.
But he passed away in late 2019 and the couple of years that followed were tough on all of the family, while Gráinne Harvey needed some time away from the game.
“Last year with Covid, things got very tough, everything got over my head and I had to take a step away from the panel,” she said.
“It was nothing to do with anything really but my fitness had gone. With Covid and everything that happened to Dad, I needed a break.
“I just decided to step away and I was back with club last year and got fit. I’m back this year and I’m flying and I’m delighted. I would hate to have none of the Harveys part of it because there is always one of us.
“But back then I was not fit and just with Covid I put on an extra few pounds, as we all do. I didn’t feel good. Do you know when you just get to a time in your life?
“I am 25 now but I have played eight or nine years and I just needed time out. I really push for girls when they do need a break. It’s huge commitment, you are training four, five, six nights a week and I just needed time out.
“There was so much going on, I was unfit, Dad had passed the year before and he is a huge part of me playing football. He would always be on the sideline. You would miss him being around.
“Things just got tough and I decided to step away but sure now I’m back and I’m ready for road.”
Crucial to her decision to step away was knowing that she had the support of the Clare Ladies football management team, and her family, even if her sister, Caoimhe, didn’t agree with it straight away.
But Harvey knows the importance of having that opportunity to take a step back, re-energise and go on.
And she is delighted to have got the chance to get a fresh outlook.
“Clare manager Evan Talty literally texted when I had made my decision,” said Harvey.
“Obviously my sister was not happy with my decision, she is the captain of Clare Ladies. She was like ‘what are you doing? Just because you’re not starting, you are letting them beat you.’
“She was just being a captain. She wasn’t being my sister but then she was being my sister at home. She is so good at doing the two roles.
“Then Evan texted: you have given so much to Clare Ladies, the door will always be open for you.’
“It was really good, you head away and come back when you are ready.
“We started back training in October or November, I was the first one at training. I just needed the couple of months out. I went to the matches and watched them last year but I was like ‘I need to get back.’
“It is good to promote to girls that it is okay to take a break, it is okay to take the few months if you need it, for everyone. It was the best thing I ever did because this year I am probably playing some of my best football for Clare Ladies.
“I know I am giving it my all, I can give commitment and I want to be there.”
And she is the only Harvey involved in the Clare Ladies team currently because her sister, Caoimhe, had to step away for a short time too.
She is pregnant and due to give birth later in the summer but Gráinne knows it will be hard to keep her away from the pitch for long afterwards.
“We are so happy, she is delighted and she is so funny, she is like ‘I will be back a couple of weeks later’,” said Harvey.
“We are such a football driven family. She is six months pregnant and she is still gymming. She is your perfect footballer, she is brilliant and she is so into it.
“I’m younger than her and yeah, I do look up to her. She is a huge loss for Clare Ladies this year. It’s unfortunate she is due in August so she is going to miss out.”