Phil Healy - The Shona Project

Phil Healy is a Cork woman born and raised (don’t worry, we won’t hold that against her) and is an Irish International Sprinter who will represent Ireland in the next Olympics. She is also the Irish record holder of the 100 and 200-metre sprints.  During our summer schools in August, we showed our girls a video of Phil Healy’s inspirational race at the IUAA Women’s 4 x 400m relay race where she made an epic comeback proving that you should never ever give up! Check it out HERE.

We were delighted that she slowed down long enough to have a chat with us x

Hi Phil! What are the main experiences or influences in your life that led you to where
you are today?

I started off in nursing when in college and did Children’s and general integrated nursing so I had a lot of extra hours compared to general on its own. However, I loved it and gave time to do my placement in CUH. Although it was hard seeing sick children and their families, it was extremely rewarding to help at the same time. After 3 years, I chose to make a change in my career. Performing at a high international level in athletics at the time, both back to back 13-hour shifts and night shifts weren’t conducive to training and vice versa. I was always told by my coach Shane McCormack to never look back on life with regrets. At the age I was –  around 20/21 at the time – I had one shot at athletics to pursue it. I took that chance and moved into a HDIP in applied Computer technology. Also in UCC.

For me it was so important to make sure I did had a degree in nursing, so I graduated with a health science degree and always had the opportunity to go back and finish my final placement. By making the career change, it set up a lot of opportunities for me and gave me the chance to pursue the sport. At that age, it is so important to know that there are so many options and don’t feel you’re tied into one course/ thing. I never looked back. I loved the nursing and my time in the course and have so many friends who I am always in contact with.

What advice would you give a young girl who feels that a career in sport might be for her? Where does she even start?

Explore your options… don’t feel confined to one event or sport. Try as many as you can. Do it for you. Just because your friends may not be interested or doing the same, make sure you make the choices that make you happy. You don’t have to be the best/ most talented or fastest. If you are happy when you walk off the pitch/ track/court/ dance hall…then that’s all matters.

It’s also not about winning, so that focus needs to change. It’s all for you, and you bettering yourself within your own goals. Don’t compare yourself to others. There are so many sources of information available for every sport on websites/ social media. So don’t be shy… take the leap and you won’t regret it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to continue, but at least you gave it a shot to see if you did.

Phil Healy 1

What made you fall in love with sprinting?

When I was younger I tried almost every event and it’s so important to do so. I was never actually good at sprinting, however, I stuck with it. My sister who is two years older was always winning all the races/ going to major championships at a young age so I followed in her footsteps. I was actually told that athletics may not be the sport for me and to try basketball instead. I did one basketball session after school and didn’t like it. So I was determined to show that I could improve in athletics and specifically sprinting as that was what I enjoyed. I played a number of sports up until 5th year I school, that is when I fully focused on athletics. However, I think it is so important to have a balance of both school and sport or drama/music, etc as a way to keep you organized and disciplined, while also giving you a break from the books.

Could you tell us how you deal with the pressure coming up to a big event?

For me, I have to treat it like any other competition. My sports psychologist always tells me it’s just another race with different marketing, and that’s so true. I have to focus on my lane, and my race and doing the best I can do. So it’s important to develop that routine, stay grounded, and not let a big occasion get the better of you. Of course, it brings extra excitement but it needs to be channelled correctly. We train 11 months of the year to prepare and execute on the day of a race. It doesn’t always go to plan in some races but you have to move onto the next one.

Being a successful athlete obviously requires a lot of work with many highs but also some lows, could you tell us how you overcome some of your low points?

In 2019, I was on target for a podium finish at the world university games in July. In late April of that year, I took a wobble off a step and ended up fracturing my foot. Everything seemed to crash down around me at that moment. I was sitting in the hospital crying knowing that I won’t be in the same shape as if it was a normal few weeks in the lead-up, or even may not make the games at all. After leaving the hospital I was upset but I channelled that with my coach to create new targets with training etc and adapt in every way possible. I resumed training 2 days after breaking my foot and my plan B became my plan A. 12 weeks to the day I made it to the world university games and finished 6th. Well, beyond my expectations considering the lead-up.

Setbacks can be hard mentally and physically but you need to lean on the people around you and their support in order to get through it. Don’t isolate yourself and be in your own head. Talk and relay your doubts and worries. It may seem stupid or silly to you, but reassurance or help is the greatest thing to overcome it. So don’t be afraid. It’s a difficult time and not ‘normal’, so it shows the importance of talking to others whether your worries are sports, school or life related.

Phil Healy 2

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

Breaking the National 100m and 200m record, both just weeks apart. It made it extra special to break them both in Ireland, and the 200m was at one of my favourite competitions of every year… The Cork City Sports. So, to do it in front of a home crowd, with an international field and with my friends and family there to watch, it was just an unreal feeling.

When you aren’t training or when you have a day off, how do you like to treat yourself?

It’s so important to switch off. I train 6 days a week, so to have that time to just chill and wind down is so important. When I get a few days back in Cork, I like to spend it with my family and meet my friends, when possible. The majority of the time, I like to watch tv/Netflix and have a lazy day when I can.

Phil Healy 3

What is the one piece of advice that someone gave you that has always stuck with you?

  • Don’t look back with regrets.
    Be you and do what YOU enjoy.
    Don’t focus on what others think or say.
    Not everything can be sunshine and rainbows, so take the good with the bad and overcome them without letting it defeat you.

What 3 things do you wish you’d known when you were younger?

  • Don’t be afraid to change.
  • Take all opportunities that come your way.
    Do what makes you happy within reason, without listening to other people’s opinions.


Who inspires you?

Growing up I always loved watching Olympic gold Medalist, Shelly-Ann Frazer Pryce from Jamaica. I actually got to race her in the summer of 2018 in the London diamond league so that was an unreal experience.
The former national record holder Ailis Mcsweeney… another Cork girl. She was so supportive and helpful as I was transitioning through the years from Junior to Senior. She gave me some extremely helpful advice and was someone I looked up to.
Alison Miller – the former Irish rugby player, came back from a horrific leg break and trained with us during her come back. To see the time and hard work she put in – and although didn’t receive the coverage earned for doing so- I saw first hand what she went through. Her drive and dedication to overcome all obstacles was amazing.


Ready for your quick fire round?

Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?
Yes… I am one of those who love pineapple on pizza.

Go-to comfort food?
Or crisps
Always a cup of Barry’s tea

We would like to say a massive thank you to Phil Healy for her time and support! You can keep up with Phil on her Instagram below or on her Twitter here. 


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A post shared by Phil Healy (@phil_healy)

Who should we meet next? Let us know at info@shona.ie

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