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‘I wanted to be a football coach. The teacher chuckled: ‘Well obviously you can’t do that, Laura.’’ (Ireland)

Tullyallen, County Louth – where I grew up – did not have a football team for girls. All I ever wanted was to play, a chance to score like Robbie Fowler or pass like Steve McManaman. We took our lead from dad. His devotion to Liverpool became a family creed for myself, my three brothers and my younger sister. As soon as a new strip came out, we were brought into town to get the jersey. That was always a big day out for us.

I wore my kit everywhere but did not get to play a proper game until I went to college. Back home, I made do with Gaelic football. Despite the lack of playing opportunities, my passion did not wane. Luckily I stumbled down a different path.

Although I had no club to play with, there came the chance to train a team instead. One weekend, when I was 14, I went on a coaching course with dad. Sean McCaffrey, who sadly passed away in 2017, was then a Regional Development Officer with the FAI. He ran the course. Although the only female there, and the youngest by far, I never felt out of place. Sean was full of encouragement – ‘You can do this’. He filled me with belief. I owe him a lot.

I loved coaching from the start. The U8 boys at Albion Rovers, our local club, were the first team I trained. My brother, Conor, played with them the following year so I became his coach too. I might have been a little nervous at the start but that had more to do with the parents who were watching. At that age, the boys knew me only as their coach. To them, it did not matter that I was 14 and female.

The more coaching that I did, the more I wanted to do. At school, as the Leaving Cert approached, teachers would ask us what careers we wanted to pursue. I remember one day, I put my hand up in class and said I wanted to be a football coach. The teacher chuckled: ‘Well obviously you can’t do that, Laura.’ But in my head I thought: ‘I’m a coach already.’ My stubborn streak kicked in. Other people’s doubt strengthened my resolve.



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