GAA

Inspiring Young Girls To Play Football, That Is Dublin's Goal

The Dublin ladies footballers encounter a familiar scene whenever they attend a kids GAA camp - it's one they want to change.

"We've always said that when we go to camps, we're always asking 'Who's your favourite footballer?' and they're always saying 'Bernard Brogan' because they thought he was good looking or he was the only name that they knew," Noelle Healy told Balls at Denis Mahony Motors on Wednesday afternoon.

"Now you're kind of hoping that at least it will be a footballer that they want to be when they grow up because they want to play in that position when they go out for Dublin rather than hopefully go out with them at some stage."

It's about more than just winning All-Irelands for this Dublin team.

Last September's All-Ireland final victory - the first in seven years - will have helped kick on their goal. The 'Blues Sisters' documentary, charting their road to All-Ireland glory which was broadcast on RTÉ two months later, raised their profile even further.

"The reason behind the documentary is that we wanted to promote ladies football as a whole and that it's a sport that we're taking as seriously and are putting as much effort into as other teams would be," said Healy.

Because it's RTÉ and the time slot that it was, it probably got a lot of coverage and it seems to have very much appealed to a younger audience. There's a lot of people who've said they showed it to their sisters, their daughters, teachers have been showing it in schools.

At the moment because there are so few girls staying involved in team sport or staying involved in sport in general, they don't see the benefit from a personal development or support structure point of view, they just think that it's a way to stay fit, 'Oh I can go off an do that by myself in the gym'. Whereas for a lot of us, as we found growing up, it's so much more than that.

The documentary showed that, a lot of people have come up and said, 'God, I wish that I had stayed involved with a sports team. I forgot about the extra but that you get with it'.

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Allowing the documentary to be made was a brave decision by the team. They had suffered All-Ireland final heartbreak in the three previous seasons. A possibility of further woe - this time behind-the-scenes woe - being caught on camera must have loomed.

Ultimately, the feature was a huge success - it highlighted the realities of the game. Players are not coddled.

"I think it showed that we're not all just being wrapped in wrapping wool like, 'We're all great, well done, off ye go now, let's play again' - it's real. You want to get the best out of each other and we're demanding the best from each other."

During half-time of one game, manager Mick Bohan singled out Healy for criticism. It didn't bother the 2017 Player of the Year.

"I don't think that because we're girls we shouldn't get shouted at.

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"I remember that game very clearly, I think it was the quarter-final. I wasn't playing well enough, I wasn't showing well enough for the ball and wasn't getting on the ball well enough. What I was doing with the ball wasn't right, it wasn't the way that he had told us to play and we weren't getting the performance because of that.

"He was right. He singled me out and he asked for an improved performance and hopefully he got some of it. I think you just have to take it on the chin, that's just the way it is.

"Everyone who's been in a team dressing room or a sport dressing room has been given out to and told to cop on a bit. I wouldn't take any notice of it really, none of us would. I think I was the one who was singled out on camera but there was definitely plenty of other moments of it."

Eir sport recently announced that they will broadcast three live games from the Ladies National League - all three will feature Dublin. It's another step in the right director for women's Gaelic games, one which Healy believes has been facilititated by a sport which is becoming increasingly entertaining.

It's a really fast sport, you don't have the type of cynicism that the men's game has. They are generally high scoring games, the score can turn very quickly, the goals just seem to come a bit easier in ladies football. The games are much more exciting, no result is a given until the last few minutes.

Hopefully, if the skill levels continue to improve the way they have been improving, the audience will increase and increase.

Denis Mahony Motor Group has renewed its support of Dublin footballer Jack McCaffrey and Dublin Ladies footballer Noelle Healy. By simply registering to take a test drive in any Toyota Hybrid model at either of Denis Mahony Toyota branches, drivers can nominate a local GAA club of their choice to be in with a chance of winning an exclusive training masterclass, led by Jack and Noelle and held at their own club. For more information, see: http://www.denismahony.ie/web/test-drive-competition/

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