A star on the stage and on the ward

Emma Donohue told David Hennessy about being the big winner on TG4’s Glór Tíre, being thrown in at the deep end of the pandemic as a nurse and why she never considered giving up the nursing for singing even after her success on the show.

It has been quite a year for 22-year-old Emma Donohue from Killoran, Co. Galway.

Not only did she win talent show Glór Tíre on TG4 but as a student nurse, she was also thrown into the deep end as a nurse working on placement at hospitals around the midlands in the midst of the pandemic.

Emma is now working on an album but will continue working as a nurse even with even her impressive win seeing her waiver from her path in healthcare.

Emma says the competition gave her some relief from what were difficult times.

“I was working as a nurse at the time and things were kind of doom and gloom here with Covid and lockdown and things like that.

“And I said, ‘You know what? When the opportunity comes along like that, just grab it with both hands and go for it’.

“I found music was a form of escape for me from work.

“I was seeing an awful lot of things that I hadn’t experienced before that were hard to comprehend as well.

“I would just turn to music when I came home or even in the car on the way home and it would kind relax you and take your mind away from what you were after seeing that day.”

Was it a nightmare? “At times. You have to be very open minded going into a profession like nursing.

“It’s only for certain people because a lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“I suppose growing up on a farm, I was well used to blood and things like that but it’s a different story when it’s human beings.

“To see people so vulnerable and so sick and not to have their family by their side- That’s the thing I found very challenging because I’m very family oriented myself.

“Not having that camaraderie and that sense of security to have with one of your own with you was challenging for me to accept because you feel so sorry for them and would look at them and say, ‘What if that was one of my own there in the bed and they had nobody there?’

“That’s what I found very upsetting.

“To see them sick and everything was a challenge in itself but there’s medications and things to help that.

“The sense of compassion for the old and the vulnerable as well. And even the younger generation know, they’re frightened.

“So that’s what I found very challenging but it’s part and parcel.

“We weren’t the only ones going through it.

“You just had to get on, pull up your socks and do your best. That’s all you can do because you can’t do anymore in situations like that.

“No one is an iron man or an iron woman when it comes to situations like that.

“I definitely got overwhelmed a couple of times with different situations that arose.

“And it’s hard. A lot of people say when you’re going into nursing you have to leave work where it is.

“But it’s very hard to do that when you’re dealing with deaths and things like that.

“There were various times when I struggled and questioned things but I was very fortunate to have my family behind me. My mam and dad  and brother were great.

“I would come home and they were was just there to offer that ear or support when you had nobody else.

“Without them, I wouldn’t have got through it because they really did pull me through the whole lot.

“And my mam was working at Merlin Park in Galway.

“She knew exactly what it was like.

“I suppose the two of us were going through it together.”

Is it disappointing that even after all their efforts during the pandemic, nurses are still having to fight for what they see as fiar conditions? “It is disappointing.

“I didn’t go into nursing for the money side of things.

“We’re dealing with the deaths, the dying, everything and it’s just not fully respected really.

“And it is a kick in the teeth for a girl just starting out in her nursing career, going into my final year now in September, that we’re not fully recognized by the boys in the big suits.

“They give you all these promises, but you never really see too much of a follow through.

“At the same time. It won’t affect me in the way that I carry out my nursing profession and how I care for people because at the end of the day, they still need caring for and that’s all you need to do. You just have to stay going with it regardless of the big boys in their suits that wouldn’t be there every day to deal with it.

“But there’s a lot of people that worked through the whole thing- not just the nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants- and they didn’t get the recognition either.”

And it never occurred to Emma even for a minute to drop the profession in favour of singing even after her win on Glór Tíre? “No, I didn’t.

“Even the week of the final. The final was the Tuesday, I had to face into a lovely exam that  Wednesday morning.

“So I was fairly brought back down to earth the morning after.”

Has her win sunk in yet? “I suppose it has and it hasn’t.

“I couldn’t believe it.

“I was very fortunate that through recording I was allowed to bring in either my mum and my dad with me for each show so it was my mum one week, my dad the other week.

“For the final, I was very fortunate to have the two of them there. Unfortunately, my brother couldn’t be there but he was on FaceTime and everything.

“I remember that gut feeling.

“You’re going, ‘Oh, my god, there’s a lot of people at home and everyone has been voting for me.

“The support was just huge and I was kind of going, ‘I don’t want to let people down’.

“I want to make people proud.

“Once those voting lines closed that day, I said, ‘Right, just go and enjoy your final performance’.

“And to hear my name (as the winner), oh my god.

“All I could hear was my mam and dad just letting out a big roar.

“I just caught a glimpse and I could see two faces and the tears rolling down and I knew I had it.

“There were so many people that were behind me and supported me on my journey.

“I couldn’t have done it on my own and I’m forever grateful.”

Although she would end up winning Glór Tíre mentored by Mike Denver, Emma initially thought someone was having the ‘craic’ with her when she was asked to go on the show.

“I actually didn’t realize that it was serious.

“I thought it was one of the lads having a little bit of the craic with me. I didn’t believe it at all.

“And when they actually sent me on the details I was like, ‘Oh Jesus, this is for real’.

“That’s how it started.

“I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It kept me focused.

“I was getting an awful lot of phone calls, text messages, well wishes but at the same time, it’s important to remember where you came from and who got you there.

“I was so grateful for the opportunity. To Win it was an absolute dream come true.”

Could Emma even forget there was a pandemic going on even for a short time while singing onstage? “Oh, absolutely. I was coming from work in a pair of scrubs to getting my nails done, getting my hair done, my make-up, my dress done.

“It was beautiful. Every week, I had something to look forward to, going in and getting dolled up.

“You felt so special, you were made feel so special by everyone on the team.

“It was a lovely experience.

“Again, as I said, music was an escapism for me from work.

“Just to get that was just unbelievable.”

It meant a lot to Emma to have both her parents there on the big night as her love of music has a lot to do with them as she grew up in a very musical house.

“Our family was always very musical from the get go.

“We always had it in our family, our grandparents before us used to be very musical.

“Country music was always in the house.

“You would have Declan Nerney and Philomena Begley blasting out.

“We weren’t able to jive at the time, but they had us spinning around the floor.

“There was always music in our home.

“That’s the way we grew up.”

With her album expected next year, Emma has a single out in the coming weeks.

“There’s another single coming the end of this month.

There’s a video coming along with it. I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s a Reba McEntire song. It’s a good lively tune for the summer.

“I find that people resonate more with lively ones.

“I’m in Tullamore Hospital as well. It’s go, go, go the whole time.

“I’m trying to balance the two but a healthy balance.”

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