CORK broadcaster Jacqui Hurley has released her second children’s book about Irish female athletes. This is an exciting time for women in Irish sport, and Hurley is hoping to inspire young girls with truly remarkable role models.
Girls Play Too - Book 2 showcases 25 of Ireland’s best female athletes and includes Cork’s Phil Healy, Anna Geary, Valerie Mulcahy, Niamh McCarthy, and Gemma O’Connor.
The second in the series, the book deals with important topics within the fairytale style stories of the 25 athletes.
The book tells the individual stories of some of Ireland’s female sports stars to encourage young girls to pursue their passions and show them that ‘Girls Play Too’.
Speaking to The Echo, Jacqui Hurley noted the success of the first book, which is loved by children across the country.
“In a way, it’s a continuation, because the first one was so successful,” Hurley says. “In my head, I probably thought it would be nice to do a second one, but you can’t really do a second one if the first one is terrible and nobody likes it. The greatest success of it all is that people are really responding to it.”
By showcasing the athletes, the books have fostered a new generation of fans; the children feel a connection with them after reading about their life.
For Hurley, the hardest part is choosing which athletes to include in the books and which to leave out.
“That’s probably a testament to how many great athletes there are and that’s a really good thing,” Hurley says.
The books inspire children by showing them that sports stars are just like them and then they can identify with them.
“Every kid has a dream that they want to be something; maybe not all of them want to be sports stars, but I’d like to think that if they read this, they will get something from it,” Hurley says.
“Whether they want to just play in their backyard and continue playing sport for their life, or if they want to win an All-Ireland, I’m hoping that they will read this book and feel like: ‘Oh, yeah, that girl is just like me’.”
As a child, Hurley would love to have had a similar book to read.
“They say people invent things that they really wanted for themselves and 12-year-old me would have loved this book,” Hurley says. One of Ireland’s leading sports broadcasters, in 2009, Hurley became the first female anchor of Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio One and presents the daily sports bulletins on the Six One News.
Of all the things she has done in her career, however, the books bring her the most pleasure.
“It actually has a really, really tangible feel, where you understand that kids are actually really getting something from this,” Hurley says.
“If it inspires more girls to stay playing sport, that will actually make me more happy than anything else that I do, because it’s a huge issue.” While Hurley wrote the book with girls in mind, the mother of two soon realised the importance of ensuring that young boys also see inspiring female athletes.
“My seven-year-old son gets as much out of it as my four-year-old daughter and I’m there thinking maybe I was wrong in the first place to try to write a book for girls when, actually, what you want to do is show young boys that there are girls who play, too: That’s the reason the book is called Girls Play Too.” During what has been a successful period for female sports stars, children have had the opportunity to see some of the stars of the books on their television screens.
As host of RTÉ’s Olympics coverage, Hurley witnessed first-hand some historic moments for female athletes. Cork’s Emily Hegarty landed a bronze medal for Ireland in the women’s four, along with teammates Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, and Fiona Murtagh.
As Team Ireland’s first medal at the Games, that moment was particularly poignant.
“Everyone was in tears. It was just so special,” Hurley says.
Though she knew the girls were contenders, seeing them achieve bronze on the world stage was “amazing”.
“I said it to them after, I said: ‘Girls, your lives are going to change.’ They were totally taking it in their stride, and you look at someone like Emily Hegarty, who has just really embraced the whole thing. She looks like she’s just living the dream,” Hurley says.
“They really, really appreciated what it meant and just to watch them celebrate... it has just been phenomenal. I just loved that.”
Another standout moment was after boxer Kellie Harrington’s gold medal, when Hurley got to show her the scenes of celebration from back home.
“It’s right up there with my favourite sporting moments of all time,” says Hurley.
With female athletes doing the country proud on the world stage, Hurley’s second book is timely.
“It’s all connected, and I do think that these last five years, in particular, for women’s sport, has been like no other,” Hurley says.
“The acceleration in this space is phenomenal, because there’s more TV coverage, there’s more newspaper coverage, obviously, there has never been a more successful time for women in sport, as well in terms of what they’re delivering.
“That’s all great and it all ties in together and I think there’s a big movement out here and there’s a lot of support for it and here’s hoping that it continues, because I am loving this,” Hurley says.
- ‘Girls Play Too - Book 2’ is published by Merrion Press and is available in bookshops nationwide, from online booksellers and Merrionpress.ie.