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"Don't think you know everything there is to know" - My LGFA Life with Fermanagh's Joanne Doonan

My LGFA Life with Joanne Doonan – Fermanagh Footballer


Age: 26

Club: Kinawley

Occupation: Mechanical Engineer turned PT

County debut: 2011

Notable achievements: 3 x Ulster Intermediate Winners, TG4 All Ireland Junior Winner, Lidl National League Division 4 winners.


Q: Joanne, thanks for chatting to us. How have you found your experience of playing Ladies Football?

A: I’ve absolutely loved playing Gaelic football and I think throughout this pandemic it’s really solidified how much I’d be lost without it. I’ve created life-long friends and feel a part of a big community, no matter where you are in the world. It’s been amazing to see the changes in media representation of Ladies Football over the years also.


Q: What was it that sparked your interest in the sport from a young age?

A: I remember when I was very young I never used to like playing football with my cousins and brother in the back garden but I suppose you see them love it so you become more involved. Then gradually through school years there was a big influence to play, mainly because where I’m from it’s the main sport so I just fell into it.


A: When did you pull on the Fermanagh jersey for the first time, and how big a thrill was that?

A: I debuted in 2011 and I was a big bag of nerves. I was definitely proud to even get on and just from there develop as a player. Looking back you always wonder why we get so nervous but it probably showed how much I cared.


Q: What is the best thing for you about playing Ladies Football?

A: I definitely think the skills you pick up from it, so the commitment, the determination, teamwork and willingness to constantly improve. I feel as you’re growing up in that environment you take for granted how these will help you throughout life and help you become the person you want to be. I would also have to mention the life-long friends and community in Gaelic Games is just amazing to be apart of.


Q: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

A: My family have always been mad into football which probably helped me stick at it from a young age with my parents driving me everywhere to play. In later years James, my boyfriend, has really helped me realise not everyone just gets to a certain point in their playing career, and that you can always improve and work on something.


Q: What are the main challenges that you have faced in your career so far?

A: I find the biggest challenge in Ladies football is the gap between the men and women. I understand if some people feel the standards are far apart but it’s an appreciation of the ladies giving just the same, if not more, commitment and effort and I feel they deserve more respect for it. I feel especially within small counties it’s a fight to get anything for the ladies and the majority of the time the girls themselves raise the money. I do want to mention 20×20.ie and Hersport.ie, who are doing brilliant work showcasing some amazing female athletes.


Q: You’re renowned as a hard-working forward player, with an eye for a score. What do you consider to be your best attributes as a footballer? 

A: I would probably say that I try my best to put 100% into everything I do on and off the field. I also feel communication on the field is a big thing and I never really stop talking.


Q: What do you do for a living, and how do you manage the work-life-sport balance?

A: Prior to moving to Australia I was a Process Engineer near Belfast. At times it was difficult, you’ve a lot more planning ahead of time to make sure food is prepped and you’ve everything for training. Once a good habit is formed I actually didn’t mind the commute 3 times a weeks. Sometimes I did feel I was always rushing so it’s important if you’ve doing it to make time for yourself to chill out.


Q: You’re a club player with Kinawley. How big an influence has the club been on you and how much do you value club football? 

A: A massive influence. I feel I’m very fortunate to be a part of the club that values all their members equally. From underage we’ve had a brilliant team and it’s starting now to come through at senior level, with enormous backing from the club supporters when we are performing. I love playing club, there’s no bond like playing with girls you’ve grown up playing with. I’m really enjoying this time of just club football.


Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your career?

A: I’d love to see Fermanagh ladies return to Intermediate and contend there again. As for club, I’d love to see us get an Ulster Intermediate title and push on. Personally I just want to be playing for long time yet and giving back what I can to club and county.


Q: Have you played other sports?

A: Yes, I’ve played AFLW in Australia.


Q: Do you have a favourite photograph from your career?

A: This photo was when I was captain and we gained promotion from Division 4 of the Lidl National League. I feel with one up one down in the league it’s very hard to progress through the divisions so for us this was a massive deal to set us up for playing more competitive football in the following years. I think it just showed how much it meant to me.


Q: How have you and your team-mates found the experience of lockdown during Covid-19? What did you do to keep yourselves occupied? 

A: I think it went through phases of emotions, at times it was nice to chill but as time went on the reality of training on your own for the foreseeable future was daunting. We tried to do a weekly zoom call and workout to keep us together. I’m someone that needs routine so I did struggle a bit at the start but once I formed a routine I actually didn’t mind it as long as everyone was safe.


Q: How did you find your experience in Australia with Carlton? Have you plans to return?    

A: The experience over with Carlton was brilliant. It was great to get an insight to the professional lifestyle and get a chance to play with some of Australia’s top athletes. Obviously it was tough when things weren’t going to plan because you didn’t have the same support network you had at home, but it helped me grow as a person. I’ve made lifelong friendships with girls that I never would have met otherwise. I’m not going back to Carlton, so I’m currently seeing if there’s interest from other clubs while trying to decide what’s best to suit me as it’s a massive decision to head out again.

Q: What’s your career highlight?

A: Again it’s probably lifting the cup in the National League last year and just knowing we were progressing as a county.


Q: How confident are you that Fermanagh can make a big impact in the 2020 TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship, after contesting last year’s final?

A: I feel we probably have to forget about last year’s competition to be honest, it’s a new competition with new teams and different circumstances. I definitely feel we are capable winning another Junior All Ireland, we’ve a fantastic squad and girls are willing to put in the work regardless of what’s happening.


Q: What piece of advice would you offer to up and coming young players?

A: I would say to not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You can do whatever you want if you’re willing to put in the hard work to get you there. I’d also say to be coachable and ask for feedback, don’t think you know everything there is to know, you can always improve and learn from people you trust.


Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?

A: I like reading/audible books and generally doing activities that doesn’t need to be taxing like walking or hikes.


Q: You’re hosting a dinner party, and you can invite 5 people. Who’s on the list and what are you rustling up for your guests to eat?

A: I’d have the Doonan sisters, Lean and Laura, for their entertainment, then I’d get the Melbourne family back together with Aisling McCarthy, Aileen Gilroy and Mairead Seoighe, just so Mairead can cook instead of me.


Q: And finally, who’s your all-time sporting idol?

A: Tayla Harris

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