"I deal with setbacks in a more productive way now" - My LGFA Life with Mayo's Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly – Mayo

Age: 26

Club: Moy Davitts

Occupation: Primary Teacher

County debut: 2006

Notable achievements: TG4 All-Star Nominee 2019, Western People Ladies Gaelic Football Sports Star Award 2018, Connaught Telegraph Award September 2018, LGFA Team of the League 2018, Lidl National League Division 1 Finalist 2018, Croke Park LGFA Player of the Month August 2017 and July 2018, TG4 Player of the Match Awards 2017 & 2018, TG4 All-Ireland Senior Finalist 2017, WGPA Player of the Month August 2017, 3 All-Ireland Titles with St. Patrick’s College, HEC All-Star Award while with St Pat’s, HEC All-Star with University of Limerick 2018, Club County Finalist 2019.


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


A: Ladies Football has been my passion for as long as I can remember and I have had some of the best moments of my life playing football with my club, college and county teams. There is no doubt that it has been challenging and frustrating at times but it is from these moments that I have learned the most about myself and it has shaped me into the person I am today both on and off the pitch. I have gained life-long skills and attributes which I continue to apply to this day, e.g. the importance of respect, work-rate, communication, leadership and resilience to name just a few. Some of my best friends are my current teammates from both my club and county teams and we share so many unforgettable memories which I will cherish forever. I am still learning with each game that I play to this day and as I get older my drive to win and succeed keeps getting bigger and bigger. Football has been such an enjoyable and rewarding experience so far and I look forward to many more great days with my teammates.


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


A: For as long as I can remember I have always had a huge interest in sport. Every day after school it would be a race to get out of our school uniform, change into our sportswear and grab the football outside. My Mum and Dad encouraged us to try out as many sports as possible when we were young. We tried out everything and anything – Gaelic, soccer, basketball, Irish dancing, running etc. – we were constantly on the go! What I enjoyed the most however were our competitive Gaelic Football battles with our two uncles and cousins out in our back garden! The excitement every time they came to visit was like no other! I admired my two uncles’ playing styles and wanted to be just like them. I was naturally right-footed as a child but because one of my uncles was left-footed I had to be a left-footer too! I used to practice for hours on end soloing and kicking the ball off the wall with my left foot and I am now more confident kicking off my left.  My uncle also supported Liverpool so I followed suit for a while but that has changed now as I have knocked some sense into myself since!


A: How big a thrill was it for you to pull on the Mayo jersey?


A: Pulling on the Mayo jersey was and still is a huge honour every time I step on the pitch. My first time putting on the jersey was with the U12 Mayo team – I’ll never forget how big the jersey was on me.. It was more like a dress ha ha! I was so proud to be wearing it and I wanted to play the game of my life for my Mum and Dad. It was a magic moment running out on to the pitch with my teammates, some of whom still are my current teammates! Mayo is such a passionate and Gaelic Games-obsessed county and I am very proud every time I wear the jersey and represent the county.


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


A: The best thing for me about playing Ladies Football is the life-long friends you make and the memories you share with them forever – that is with my club, college and my county team. Each team is so unique and different which is what makes each team so special; from the craic on buses travelling back to college with a winning cup, to club team bonding sessions or the dreaded running sessions with the county team after a big loss the weekend before – all these moments brought great laughter and a sense of unity which is what makes playing a team sport so fulfilling!


Q: Who was the biggest influence on your career?


A: The Heffernan sisters were huge influences in my career – Marcella and Christina. I used to love watching them play when I was younger. They both managed our U16 Mayo team. They were great motivators and great people too. They brought out the best in you as a player. Myself and (my sister) Niamh loved going to their training sessions (even though they were a killer sometimes ha ha), we wanted to be just like them as sisters growing up!


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


A: The main challenges I have faced in my career so far are probably the losses. I hate losing! When I was younger I would beat myself up about it and blame myself a lot for the losses. As I developed as a player and built more resilience, I still hate to lose but I deal with setbacks in a more productive way now.


Q: How big a decision was it for you to agree to a career in the AFLW?


A: It was a big decision to agree to a career in the AFLW. Ladies Football is my number one sport since I was a young girl and I have played with Mayo since I was U12 so it was a very tough decision to make but it was also an opportunity of a lifetime and I knew that if I didn’t agree to it now then I never would.  I didn’t want to have any regrets. I knew it didn’t interfere with Championship football here so it made it that bit easier to agree to it.

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


A: An aspiration of mine since I was a young girl is to win an All-Ireland Senior medal with Mayo. I would love to win a county Senior title with my club some day too and just enjoy and cherish every moment on the pitch and take every opportunity I get for the rest of my career.


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


A: There have been many great photographs from my career captured by my Mum and the Mayo Ladies Gaelic Football page too. One that I like is an action photograph (Sportsfile) from our Championship Quarter Final vs Donegal in 2017 where I am just about to kick the football and I am actually looking quite composed playing football and not pulling any crazy faces for a change!


Q: What’s your career highlight?


A: My career highlight would have to be when we got through to the All-Ireland Final in 2017. We beat Cork at Kingspan Breffni in Cavan and the feeling amongst the group afterwards was just amazing knowing we were going to be training together for another few weeks in preparation for an All-Ireland Final in Croke Park.


Q: How big a challenge is it for you, as an inter-county player, to manage the work-life balance?


A: Huge sacrifices come with being an inter-county player nowadays. It is a big challenge especially when I was based in Dublin. Travelling down to Mayo every weekend and half way across the country for mid-week training sessions after work was both mentally and physically exhausting. That is why managing work-life balance is so important. For me it is all about organisation and time management. Scheduling time for yourself and your friends in between work and football is crucial for your overall wellbeing and your performance on the pitch too. I found that if I had a productive Sunday then I was away with it for the rest of the week and I had more time to do other things outside of football – e.g. preparing meals for the week ahead, my work ready for the week, and in bed early.


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


A: ‘Treat every game like it’s your last’ – because when you finally reach the day where you can no longer play and can only watch the game, you will then know how much you loved playing the game that you once took for granted.


Q: And who’s given you the best piece of advice during your career?


A: The best piece of advice I have been given was from Brian Cody actually. He gave our team a talk before and I remember him telling us to treat every training session like it’s a Championship match – intensity, work-rate, communication etc. – because if you don’t practice it, it won’t just magically happen. It has stuck with me since.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?


A: I like to be active as much as I can so I like to play other sports for fun – basketball and soccer in particular. I enjoy sight-seeing too and hanging out with friends.  I like to play the piano in my spare time in the evenings to relax before going to bed. I also love to cook and bake, I am always looking for new recipes to try out. A major hobby of mine is heading out for brunch and trying out new cafés!


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: Niamh – I suppose I would have to invite Niamh been as she lives with me, it wouldn’t go down well if she wasn’t on the list ha ha!

Breda – I would bring along my Mum to help out with the rustling up of a good dinner!!

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh – He is great storyteller and knows all things GAA! He would be great aul craic too!

Jennifer Lopez –  Ha ha random one! She is just a boss and I’d love her inspirational words for us women lol!

Michael Jordan – Just because I am watching his documentary series at the moment ha ha! Love his determination and winning attitude!

16 November 2019; Breda Kelly, right, accepts the Score of the Year award on behalf of her daughter, Mayo footballer, Niamh Kelly, from Marie Hickey, President, LGFA, during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football All Stars Awards banquet, in association with Lidl at the Citywest Hotel in Saggart, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile 

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


A: My all-time sporting idol would have to be Ciaran McDonald who played with Mayo. He was a seriously talented footballer and had such a unique style of playing the game. When I was younger going to Mayo games I used to just watch him for the majority of the game whether he had the ball or not just to see where he would position himself and what he was doing!

Sign up to our email newsletter


Partners & Supporters





See all LGFAClubs