Female sports stars in Rebel county give Cork girls the ideal role models

Female sports stars in Rebel county give Cork girls the ideal role models

Cork ladies footballer, Melissa Duggan, in action against Cavan, is one of many sports stars young girls can look up to.

A STUDY commissioned by Lidl Ireland for the Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association in 2017 found that girls who play sport have higher confidence and better mental wellbeing.

A total of 80% of girls who played sports rated their mental wellbeing at a score of seven to 10, compared to 67% of girls who didn’t play sports.

None of the of girls who played sport reported feeling lonely, compared to 10% of girls who didn’t play sport, who said that they did feel lonely on a daily basis.

No surprise, really, with those findings and now, in the current climate, sport, when it returns, will play an even bigger role in helping all recover, both mentally and physically, from the last year and more.

We are lucky in Cork to have many female sports stars that young girls can look up to, from ladies’ footballers, like Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Doireann O’Sullivan, Hannah Looney, and Melissa Duggan to the likes of Amy O’Connor, Orla Cronin (camogie), and, of course, Phil Healy, who is setting the world of athletics on fire at the moment.

One advocate of how powerful sport can be for girls, and also a supporter of the Dermot Earley Youth Initiative Project, is Aisling Nig Ruairc.

The young player, who lines out with Cuala in Dublin, is encouraging young players to either take up the game or not to lose interest once action returns, hopefully in the coming weeks.

The Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative (DEYLI) takes its name from one of Ireland’s most inspirational leaders and a huge figure in GAA, Dermot Earley, who passed away in 2010.

LEGEND: The late Dermot Earley is carried from the field by Mayo goalkeeper Eugene Lavin and midfielder Willie Joe Padden following his last game for Roscommon, the 1985 Connacht senior football final.
LEGEND: The late Dermot Earley is carried from the field by Mayo goalkeeper Eugene Lavin and midfielder Willie Joe Padden following his last game for Roscommon, the 1985 Connacht senior football final.

The initiative, a tribute to Dermot’s lifetime of sporting and professional achievements and his commitment to community service, is brought to life through a partnership between GAA, Foróige, and NUI Galway. The programme empowers young people to enhance their leadership capabilities to better enable them to reach their full potential and have a positive impact on the world around them.

The initiative has seen more than 600 young GAA members (aged 15-18) complete the year-long programme, gaining from NUIG a FETAC Level 6, third-level qualification in Youth Leadership and Community Action.


The programme evokes and honours the values that Dermot Earley epitomised and it is designed to foster them in a new generation of young Irish leaders. The programme is comprised of three modules, two of which are facilitated, and one undertaken by the young people independently.

They are always looking for facilitators around the country, who will receive full training and ongoing support. It takes a minimum of two facilitators to deliver the programme to a group of 15 young people in their club. 

Each of the facilitated modules consists of 15 one-hour sessions. How the programme is delivered is up to the facilitators. It can be run weekly or in a block of a few sessions at a time.

Should you have any queries, you can contact Blánaid Carney, health and wellbeing coordinator, at blanaid.carney@gaa.ie. 

“I don’t even know where to start, It’s been amazing,” said Aisling Nig Ruairc of her own experience of playing.

“I started when I was five and I was the sort who would volunteer to be a substitute,” said Aisling. “But it kind of just clicked for me when I was 12. So, it’s really important to continue with it, because it could click for you when you’re five or it could click for you when you’re 16. It varies for everyone.

“I’m shocked my parents kept bringing me to training, because I was a nightmare. I’m so glad they did, because it’s genuinely one of the best things in my life, and I just love every minute of it.

“It’s taught me discipline, it’s brought me friends. 

It’s brought me so many lifelong skills I think I’ll probably even use someday in the workplace.

“It’s just been amazing and I miss it a lot now,” Aisling said. “I miss just seeing my teammates and everything. I think it’s just such a good sport, but it doesn’t just have to be about playing, what’s important is that girls continue playing sport in general, whatever that sport may be.

“All sports have their benefits and I don’t think there’s any that will bring you one benefit. So, I would just love to make girls aware of that.

“That even, maybe, you don’t have that much time to still give it a shot, because sport has so, so many benefits that you wouldn’t even think of, like teaching you to be modest and hard-working, which is very important,” Aisling said.

“There are all sorts of skills that maybe aren’t visible on the pitch, but are very visible off the pitch.”

Many of the skills Aisling developed playing have been enhanced by her involvement in the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative, and she believes it can have a similarly positive impact on any other young people who might be interested in taking part.

“It was really interesting because there were people from other clubs, but there were also people from my own club that I didn’t really know, but by the end of the project, you’re getting a great understanding of leadership,” Aisling said.

“And I think, the community project, really, in the third module, is a great step to kind of show what you’ve learned and to help the community in any way possible. I’d highly recommend getting involved in the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative, if you can.”

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