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ECL girls are on the ball: Gaelic Football

Claddagh Gaels all girls team in Luton
Claddagh Gaels all-girls team in Luton

Interview with Aine O’Connor and Emily Sheehan Corrigan

Ladies’ Gaelic Football is an Irish team sport rising in popularity in the UK and worldwide.

In fact, in 2017, the All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship final was the best-attended women’s sports final in the world. In 2019, it attained the second-largest final attendance, being pipped to the post by the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.

Gaelic Football

Lucky for ECL, we have two impressive Gaelic football players, whom you probably never knew, amid the team. We got to catch up with Aine O’Connor (Purchase Ledger & H&S Training Administrator) and Emily Sheehan-Corrigan (Junior Trainee Surveyor) to chat about their incredible feats on the field and their take on the sport.

Hi Guys, thanks for the interview. First off, how did you actually get into Gaelic Football?

Emily – I’ve been playing since I was four years old. I started playing with a mixed team, and then when I turned 11, I moved up to the Claddagh Gaels all-girls team in Luton.

Aine – A family friend brought me to training; I think I was about 14 when I started. It was the first sport that I had ever done. All my cousins were playing it, and growing up, I thought I wanted to give it a go. Before then, I hadn’t done any sport.

Emily, you started as soon as you could run! I have to ask, when you were in the mixed team were you better than the boys?

Emily – Ha, I’d like to think so, but maybe not all of them. There actually were a few girls on the mixed team who were really good and moved up with me.

What positions do you both play?

Emily – I play left-half-forward.

Aine – I gave cornerback a go for a bit and then goaly.

Emily – Being in goal is so intimidating!

I’ve heard the sport is a mix of Rugby and Football.

Emily – Yes, that’s the best way to describe it. You can pick the ball up, and you can bounce the ball, but you can’t double bounce, and you can’t just run with it. 

Aine – You can also hand pass or kick pass the ball.

Can you tackle?

Emily & Aine – They say it’s a non-contact sport, but there are ways to get around it!!!!

Emily – Ha, it depends on the ref.

Aine, I know you play Rugby now, are you still playing Gaelic Football too?

Aine – I go to training every now and then at Claddagh Gaels, but I’m more into playing Rugby now. 

Emily – Rugby is a winter sport, and Gaelic Football is a summer sport, so lots of girls play both. The sports do compliment each other. 

Aine – Yeah, the Gaelic seasons just finished, and the Rugby season is underway.

Which Rugby team do you play for Aine?

Aine – I play for Stockwood Park Women. Some of the ECL lads also play for the men’s team, Oli (Oliver Daly) and Alfi (Alfie Daly). 

I’ve been playing for them for about a year, and I really like it. I didn’t expect to like it, but my friend got me into it, and it’s really good. I’m still finding out my best position, but at the moment,  I’m playing in the backs as a centre. I’ve also managed to bring Lauren Kettle in Engineering along to training now too!

There is a lot of respect in Rugby from the players and opposing players, which makes it different from other sports. You can play aggressively on the pitch, and post-game, everyone can have a drink together, and there are no bad feelings.

I get that. As a spectator, I noticed that fans from opposing teams can watch side by side, and there’s no bad vibes. 

Emily, what league do you play in?

Emily – I play in the LGFA and Gloherts (Glocester and Hertfordshire). I also played for our county team, Glohurts, in 2017, 2019 and 2022.

Wow! That’s impressive. How did you find the trials and the matches at that level?

Emily – All the girls at the trials kinda know each other from the different teams. I remember doing the trials in 2017, and it was the first year they opened up the county to our girls team. 

It was great to get into the county team and we ended up actually winning the ‘All Britain Championships’ in 2017, beating the Scotland National team in the final. After that, we played the different countries in Ireland in an international competition, and we came third in the shield.

Emily with the 2023 league shield
Emily with the 2023 league shield

That’s just a fantastic achievement! How has the 2023 season gone for you both?

Emily – We had a really good season and we actually won the league shield. We’ll start back up in January for next season. 

in September, and it will run through to April. 

Aine – The team is not doing badly, and it’s early on in the season, so it’s looking positive.  

I’ve been on the pitch a lot more this season, and I’ve really built my confidence and even scored a cheeky try against MK at our home pitch. I didn’t even realise it happened until everyone started cheering. I literally get the ball and run forward!

Well done, Aine, no doubt the first of many! And great job, Emily, for winning the shield.

You guys are both doing remarkably well. How do you handle any pre-match nerves? Do you have any regimes before you’re about to play?

Emily – I won’t put my boots on until I’m on the sideline. I keep my sliders on until I need to prep for the match. I also tuck the necklace my mum bought me into my jersey. I don’t like to take it off, it’s my lucky charm.

Aine – I make sure I have a good breakfast in the morning, and then I spend most of time before the match just bricking it.

Emily – Oh yeah, I do that too. Ha ha!

Aine – We also have music on in the changing rooms. We’ve made a team play list. 

So, no classical music or love songs then?

Aine – Ha, no classical music or slow songs.

To sum up, what’s the best bit about the game?

Emily – There are a lot of opportunities on a pitch to play all different positions, you don’t have to stick to one positon for the whole game, and I like that you can switch it up a bit. 

Aine – With rugby, its a very inclusive sport. Everyone can give it a go, and there is a position for everyone. It’s also a really social sport, and it’s easy to make friends.

Before I go, do you have any words of advice for someone thinking about joining either sport?

Aine and Emily – Go for it! Chuck yourself into the deep end. That’s the best way to do it. It really isn’t as intimidating as you think.

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