Next Wednesday the 9th of August, our 3rd Ladies Football team will play their first ever Championship Final. The team, managed by Fintan Quill, Philip Shaffery and Ray Mulholland, are made up of a fantastic group of women.

I’m lucky enough to be a part of this team, despite having had minimal involvement this year due to other commitments. However, I have watched the team go from strength to strength over the last year and so the achievement of reaching this final couldn’t be more deserving.

Our team was founded by Fintan Quill some years ago and has grown each year to the point where last year, we saw four women’s football teams in Cuala, unheard of in most clubs in Ireland. The team was developed with the goal of encouraging women to play for fun and enjoyment. Great teams have great leaders and the pillar of our team is Fintan Quill. He is someone who I think all leaders should look up to.

Fintan is an outstanding manager and goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone feels included and seen. If you are unfortunate enough to be out of action due to an injury you can be sure that Fintan will regularly check in to see how you’re doing. After every match, Fintan writes a detailed match report that is shared to our team WhatsApp, very often highlighting a positive contribution for each player on the team. Fintan sets the tone which creates the culture of our team and this is clear in the interactions amongst the team.

Our team is made up of women who are at various stages of life, from Leaving Cert to full time jobs, marriage, and even babies. Some players have been playing since they were small while many of us had never played a sport or hadn’t played much since childhood. When I first heard of the team’s foundation I wrote myself off for fear that I couldn’t keep up with the team. However, I now regret not having joined sooner.

Covid-19 came along some time after and turned many of our lives upside down. Never before did we so need a sense of friendship and community, and if we are really honest, a sense of belonging. At that time I took the notion of joining a team, not having played since I was a child. I made contact with Orla Schutte and asked if she could point me in the right direction. In true Orla style she couldn’t have been more encouraging and suggested that I chat to Aoife Wynne about the team Fintan was running.

Aoife spoke so highly about everyone involved that it didn’t take too much convincing to give it a go. Soon enough I’m on the phone to Fintan making plans to attend training and in the meantime I have roped my brother’s girlfriend, Sibéal McGloughlin, into coming with me. Going to my first training session was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In the months that followed we went in and out of lockdowns but having a focus of individual training, zoom fitness sessions run by the force of positivity Hannah Nash and general talk of future plans for the team was key in keeping mind and body well during the challenging times of the pandemic.

Since then the team has continued to change and grow. Hannah Nash moved to Mayo and joined Westport, Aoife Wynne now plays with Round Towers GAA in London. There have been many changes to our team with players emigrating and moving across the globe from London to New Zealand and everywhere in between. However, there is no doubt that there will always be a place on the team for these women when they return.

The ethos of our team is based on fairness, inclusivity and belonging, making this a key ingredient in the team’s attitude towards its players. Great leadership is seen all across the whole team, not just management. Louise Mulrennan, sunshine in the form of a human, is a constant force of kindness. I recall a time where I received a message from her commending how I had played that evening. These efforts of kindness are what make the team what it is. Making new friends as an adult can be challenging but the friendships developed as part of this team are to be treasured.

Having written sport off as just ‘not for me’ I realise that there really is a place in sport for everyone. In fact, the sport you choose is kind of irrelevant. What you really need is great leadership, team players, an open-mind and a willingness to try. Our team is a strong unit of good natured people, from management down to the latest recruit.

It has been a pleasure to watch what this team has achieved over the last few years. I urge you to attend next Wednesday’s match and support this group on an evening that they have worked so hard for. Their performance will not disappoint. Of course I hope that our team wins, I really believe that they deserve it. But regardless of what happens, just by being a part of it all, we’ve already won something much greater.

Laura Spain.

Cuala V St Kevin’s Killians
LGFA Junior J Championship Final
9th August 7pm Fingallians Swords