Balancing a demanding career as a Solicitor with a thriving international netball career is no easy feat. Yet, for Fran Duffy, it's a challenge she's embraced with determination and grace. We had the privilege of chatting with international netball player Fran Duffy on the Her Sport Show, where she shared her remarkable journey as a netball sensation for the Republic of Ireland and offered insights into her experience balancing her sport and a full time career.
File this under things we love to see! Listen to our inspiring captain @franclaireduffy speak to @HerSportDotIE about her pathway and experience playing netball in Ireland, what she’s learnt and why she enjoys it so much. pic.twitter.com/CQtiLPt5lK
— Netball Ireland (@NetballIreland) August 17, 2023
Fran's journey into the world of netball was almost predestined. Growing up in Sheffield, England, sports were an integral part of her life. Her parents instilled a love for sport in her from a young age, and her mother's own involvement in netball truly set the stage for Fran's netball future. Fran fondly recalls being introduced to netball as a child and, along with her twin brother, soon found herself immersed in the sport.
At the age of 19, while at university, Fran received an invitation to trial for the Republic of Ireland national team. Fran vividly recalls the "overwhelming" emotions that accompanied her selection to the Irish Senior Squad. She remembers the feeling of being welcomed into a new family and embarking on a thrilling netball journey. The experience opened doors for her, allowing her to travel the world, play the sport she loved, and form lasting bonds with her teammates. Looking back, Fran emphasizes the importance of nurturing talent from a young age and ensuring robust pathways for aspiring netballers.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Fran's journey is her transition from playing and training in England to representing Ireland on the international stage. She observes a significant difference in the interest levels surrounding netball between the two nations. In England, netball is a mainstream sport, with every school offering netball as part of its curriculum. In contrast, netball is still on its ascent in Ireland. However, Fran notes that this gap is narrowing, with newfound opportunities emerging for Irish girls to participate in the sport, especially at club and school levels.
(1/3) With winter league fast approaching, it’s time to find a team! Netball is a great way to stay fit, find lifelong friends and improve wellbeing. Whether you’ve been playing for years or are starting out, there’s a team to suit you! Get in contact with the clubs below
— Netball Ireland (@NetballIreland) August 25, 2023
Fran believes that the growth of netball in Ireland is driven by women seeking opportunities to engage in team sports and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with it. Netball provides a safe space for women to stay active, have fun, and build a sense of community outside their daily routines. She acknowledges the challenges of making netball a recognized sport in Ireland but sees a bright future with growing interest and participation.
It takes a great deal of effort to juggle the rigors of international netball and a demanding full-time career as a Solicitor in Myerson’s Corporate department and Hospitality and Leisure Sector Group. Fran candidly discusses the financial challenges faced by self-funded athletes like herself. Many of her teammates also work full-time or are full-time students. While they are fueled by their passion, Fran underscores the need for greater financial support and sponsorship to elevate netball to the next level; netball is "a voluntary a position and, as a as a player, we couldn't have done any of it without those women and members so we're really fortunate that people do and are willing to commit their time and energy into promoting such fantastic sport in Ireland."
Fran also emphasizes the passionate characteristics of the netball community , "even for players on the performance pathway at International level where we're self-funded athletes." Reflecting on her sporting journey, Fran identifies resilience as a pivotal lesson. She acknowledges that the path to success is rarely linear. Dealing with criticism and financial setbacks while remaining committed to her athletic goals has been a prominent part of her journey.
Fran's passion for netball is infectious. She encourages women and young girls to embrace the sport for the friendships it fosters, irrespective of their backgrounds. Netball, she says, creates a strong sense of community, and the bonds formed on the court transcend geographical boundaries. She calls for continued establishment of the systems in place and to "make sure that our Junior Pathways have a a senior Squad to look up to."
Especially because it's not as well known in Ireland - netball - Fran stresses the importance of role models and exposure. "There's always a pathway to promote netball, whether that's on the international stage, at Grassroots level in the community, and so really just making it available and well known and increasing; it's an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and create lasting memories."