I’ve worn the Dublin Football jersey to represent my club, my family and myself at inter-county level at either underage or as a member of the senior football team every year for the past 18 years. Yet it still feels my retirement from the team and group I love has come around at lightning speed.
I grew up alongside Dublin Ladies Football. It became part of my identity. I played underage the whole way up through every age grade and it was the best childhood imaginable. I then played for the senior team through five different sets of management teams, five All Ireland final losses, five All Ireland final wins and numerous barren years in between.
Do I regret not going away travelling on those years when we had unsuccessful campaigns? Not for one second. However, at times throughout my years with Dublin it’s safe to say I lost sight of the incredible journey I was on. Playing for Dublin obviously means you’re engulfed in an extremely competitive environment. This in itself can create a certain level of pressure and it must be said, stress. There was always also that underlying desire to be successful both as part of a group but also as an individual. All I can say now is that if I had the opportunity to advise my younger self or even any young person starting out in their career, it would be to enjoy the group; the different individuals, their different world views, their different approaches to training and to life in general. What an opportunity to learn and to grow!
Thoughts On Success
What I’ve come to realise is that if you’re waiting on success to make you happy, you’re missing out on so much along the way. Don’t get me wrong, that ambition to be successful and to be the best version of oneself is important and was a huge reason why I kept going back and driving forward. Nonetheless, I have regrets; like how at times I stumbled across that very fine line of being my best competitive self and being overly stressed. Looking back, it’s what I can only describe as succumbing to a feeling of huge pressure. In those moments, or even at times full weeks, I didn’t enjoy my teammates, I wasn’t understanding of the unique experiences has a go over an error, be generous in your understanding, because maybe they’re having a week where they are feeling the weight of the pressure that the environment brings.
Reflecting on my journey now, the part I value most is the connections I made with the people with whom I shared a common goal. Of course there’s the obvious lifers (as we call ourselves!) who I will always lean on for support and will love forever. I’m talking about the likes of Sinead Aherne, Noelle Healy, Nicole Owens and a few other headers! However, it’s not only those friendships for which I will be forever thankful; it’s for the connections I made with the people who were at the end of their careers when I was starting out, the people who only played for a few seasons, the people who dipped in and out and the people who only played that one year. There’s the kids who are just starting out like Kate Sullivan and Caoimhe O’Connor over whom I will always feel protective. There is Sarah McCaffery who remains the kindest and most thoughtful person I have ever had the pleasure of befriending. There is Siobhan Woods who, through thick and thin, supported me and stuck by me whether we were in direct competition or not. There’s Sinead O’Mahony and Fiona Hudson with whom I share some of my most precious memories, having played with them all the way up through underage and a few years at senior.
Being A Good Teammate
It’s funny how my motivating factors changed throughout the course of my playing career. Initially I just wanted to get off the bench and on to the pitch, then shortly after that I wanted to start, then I had ambitions to play every minute of every game. On a bigger scale, I wanted to win Leinster titles and the biggest motivating factor of all was to win All Irelands. Honestly though, by the end of my career my biggest motivation was to be a good teammate, to enjoy the group, to contribute positively to Dublin football and the players who would be as heavily invested in Dublin’s success as I have been for more than half my life. We are at the end of the day only gatekeepers for those who are coming next.My final year with Dublin, despite being seemingly unsuccessful to the outside world, was one of my most enjoyable yet. And so, to football, I will always be grateful for the unbreakable connection and bond I have made with so many good people, too many to count!