Over 300 people attended a major launch of a new academy system for underage ladies football in Roscommon last Sunday evening. Partnerships between the Roscommon Ladies Football Board and Pieta House and Roscommon County Council were also announced on the night.
Special guests on the night were Dublin player Noelle Healy, who is the 2017 Ladies Football of the Year and an All-Star winner and Sunday Game pundit Joe Brolly.
MC for the night was Chairman of Roscommon Ladies Football Board Brendan Cregg while members of the U-13, U-15 and U-17 county teams, team management, parents, coaches and club officials were present. Brendan Cregg said that the launch would herald an exciting new era for Roscommon Ladies Football and the partnerships with Pieta House, Roscommon County Council (who will provide the funding for a part-time coach) Roscommon Community College (where the county teams will train) and Kilteevan GAA who will also be helping out.
Gerard Tiernan, who spoke on behalf of Pieta House, told the gathering that since the organisation opened a branch in Athlone in October they were very busy which proved that the service was badly needed.
“We have taken 40 calls and 6 crisis calls since we opened,” he said. He also said that he was delighted that Roscommon Ladies GAA had opted for this partnership. “The GAA reaches into every parish in the country and with regard to mental health problems the key is for people to talk to each other.” He urged people present to take the Pieta House number down and store it “It might save a life someday,” he said. That number is 1-800-247-247.
Captain of Roscommon Ladies, Natalie McHugh, said that coaching the younger players which, under this initiative, many of the county senior players have opted to do, was a pleasure for her and something that she really enjoyed.
“It is so important that we have development panels with an eye to the future. I was involved with the U-13s and we had a total of 116 players that started out and to whittle that down to a panel of 30 is almost impossible but it shows the interest that is there. I know that it was the same situation for the U-15s and U-17s as well,” she said.
“With regard to the senior (intermediate) team I have to say that I won many Connacht ‘B’ titles over the years all the way up and while it was great to do that, it is an ‘A’ title that we want to win and that’s why we train so hard. I have made many great friends over the years and all over the country too and shared great experiences and while it is hard at times to keep going it is worth it. My advice to young players is to stay involved”.
Shane Curran, who is part of this major new initiative and who was responsible for Joe Brolly being in attendance, also spoke and said that energy, organisation, and a sense of fun were what were needed. He praised the level of commitment shown by Roscommon Ladies Board.
“While you have to have ambition, you also have to work hard and everyone should be encouraging each other. But it must be fun too or it’s not worth it.
“We can’t all be winners but we can be the best that we can be and that’s a huge difference, and that’s what we must strive for,” he said.
He praised the idea of the partnership with Pieta House and he said that the more people talk to each other the less chance we will have of having problems. He said that the standard of coaches and the commitment he came across in the ladies game in Roscommon was “unique”.
Noelle Healy, Ladies Footballer of the Year, All-Ireland winner with Dublin and an All Star, told the crowd that it is not important what you win it is who you win it with.
“When you play sport you lay your emotions in front of people. I have been so lucky with the support that I have got over the years from my parents, coaches, club and teammates.”
She had a message for the younger players in the audience: “Far too many girls stop playing sport at 16, 17 and 18 years of age and that is such a pity. That has to change and I would echo what Natalie McHugh said earlier. Stick with it,” he said.
Joe Brolly said that Noelle McHealy was a marvellous role model for the younger players at the launch.
“She is a great footballer but she lives a balanced life as a doctor and she gives back to the community too. What people do outside the GAA is far more important. I am helping out with fund-raising for Roscommon Hospice and I love that to be honest. When I gave a kidney to a man in Belfast a few years ago I didn’t know the man that well but I knew that he was a good GAA man and one of us so I was glad to be able to do it,” he said.
“The GAA is the social cement that keeps Irish society together. The social responsibility is so important in the GAA and we are losing sight of that at the top level. We have to ensure that we have the right balance between playing football and having a life outside it as well. I am delighted to be part of this great initiative here in Roscommon this evening,” he concluded.
A special presentation was made to Marie McAleer who is the current Secretary of Roscommon Ladies GAA but who has been involved since the beginning of the board in 1974 for her work at all levels of the association for over 40 years.