FORMER Castlehaven ladies footballer Niamh O’Sullivan has endured a dramatic time since her move to Australia over two years ago.
Niamh comes from a very strong GAA family with her father Dan a key player on the successful Castlehaven football team who won county titles in 1989 and 1994 respectively. Her two older sisters Orla and Grainne are very influential figures on the Haven ladies football team.
To boot, her younger brother Ciaran is a very competent defender on the current Castlehaven senior team.
The global pandemic brought the world to a shuddering halt over a year ago and while Ireland is still coping with Level 5 restrictions, Niamh’s experience in Melbourne is far more pleasant at present.
“Melbourne is slowly but surely getting back to normal. We had a five-day lockdown a couple of weeks ago, but all is good once again.
“Life is great and we are back playing GAA. We are also able to socialise and go travelling again, all these things we took for granted before Covid hit. Most importantly we are safe.”
The harsh daily regime which was enforced in Melbourne last year was tough admits Niamh, who also had to deal with the uncertainty of her family’s situation back home in West Cork.
“Lockdown was tough. We stayed in a strict lockdown last year for the bones of 120 days.
“This included curfews and only being allowed out of the house for an hour to exercise each day.
“We had to stay within a 5k radius at all times and serious fines were implemented if rules were broken. Victoria was also the worst affected state in Australia.
“It was also winter time here when the strict lockdown was enforced which made it tougher. We were fortunate however to be working. We remained healthy and so did all my family back home thankfully.
“Being an active member of the GAA community over here was a huge help. We are a very close-knit community and we all supported each other through the madness.”
The dedicated footballer is still thrilled she made the plunge and moved to Australia to sample the experience and the culture.
“Melbourne is unreal. There is so much to do and see. The food and people are great. I also live very near to the many beautiful places Victoria has to offer.”
Eager to pursue her love of the GAA, she immediately joined the Garryowen GAA Club after she moved to Melbourne. She is loving the experience of playing with so many Cork players and meeting new people throughout her involvement with the GAA in Australia.
“I joined Garryowen as I was aware so many Cork players were already playing for them. They twisted my arm and convinced me to join Garryowen, not that I ever needed much persuading. They are a great club, not only for the love of GAA but also for the craic.
“It is like a big family and joining them helped me adapt to my new life instantly. One of the things I missed most during the lockdown was playing sport.
It is not the same trying to stay fit on your own. I’ve met some of my closest friends here through playing GAA."
The 25-year-old has also recently taken up playing camogie, but with very contrasting fortunes she said.
“I recently starting playing camogie, which I am really enjoying. I did pick up a broken finger following a recent tournament, but it’s great to try a new skill.”
Niamh, who operated with great effectiveness as a full-back has great memories of playing for the Castlehaven junior ladies footballers alongside her two sisters Orla and Grainne. She was thrilled they won the county championship title last year after they defeated near neighbours O’Donovan Rossa.
“I have some great memories of playing in the blue and white jersey. It was always a great honour and privilege lining out beside my two sisters Orla and Grainne.
“The current squad of players and the management team are great. There is so much heart in absolutely every person involved in Castlehaven GAA.
“I remember waking up before work and seeing they had won the county final. They had previously suffered a heartbreaking loss in the county final so this win was very sweet.
“The tears were flowing in Melbourne as I knew how hard they had worked and what the county win meant to them. I always follow their fortunes very closely.
“They have won two successive county finals since I emigrated. I am very proud to be cheering them on from Australia and I can’t wait to line out with them again in the future.”
The Castlehaven junior ladies footballers will be operating in the Junior A grade this year. Niamh is confident the club will continue to succeed.
“There is great work going on behind the scenes, from an administrative and coaching perspective. The membership is growing rapidly and there is a great hunger for more success.
The Castlehaven ladies club will continue to go from strength to strength.
"There is so much drive and support behind them. It embodies the community spirit in the club.
“I can’t wait to line out in the Haven jersey again and I know I’ll be welcomed with open arms. The talent coming up through the ranks is amazing and that will drive every team on for future success.”