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'It’s given me the opportunity to make unforgettable memories' - My LGFA Life with Offaly's Amy Gavin Mangan

My LGFA Life with Amy Gavin Mangan – Offaly Footballer

Age: 21
Club: Naomh Ciaran
Occupation: Student at DCU, final year studying Sports Science and Health
County debut: 2015

Notable achievements:

2019 All Ireland Intermediate Club Champions

2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2015 Senior Offaly County Champions

2018 O’Connor Cup Champions

2016 Leinster Intermediate Club Champions

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

A: So far, I’ve had a favourable experience playing Ladies football. It has shaped me as a person and helped me to develop personal skills that I wouldn’t ever have if I didn’t play it. It has opened so many opportunities for me, helped me learn so many things and I’ve made bonds and friendships through football that I’m sure will last for life. It’s given me the opportunity to make unforgettable memories and I’m so grateful for that. It’s a demanding sport, like any, but I wouldn’t change any of my experiences so far. Every win and loss has helped me to improve personally and to learn to deal with things in different ways.

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

A: I don’t remember the age I started playing football at, I don’t remember there being a time where I didn’t play. I grew up with four brothers so there was always a constant game ongoing in the garden, whether they let me play or not was another thing! But even being ‘ball girl’ or goalie for them probably sparked my interest, more so because I wanted to be good enough to be allowed to actually play with them. That’s where my interest would have come from and it developed even more when a woman called Phyllis Price came to train us in primary school.

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

A: I’ve been lucky to be apart of an Offaly set up all the way up since joining a Ladies Football club. There was always huge excitement in getting to represent your county in underage blitzes down in Carlow. But the first time that I put on an Offaly jersey for the senior team, that I can remember, was at a game against Roscommon in 2016. I came on as a sub and there was huge pressure on us to win the game. I was very young but still wanted to make an impact, I was so afraid to make a mistake, but the older, more experienced girls weren’t shy about welcoming me into the team and passing the ball. It was a brilliant experience to get so young and I’m very grateful to have got to play with some of the girls representing Offaly that year.

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

A: It’s very cliché but the best thing for me about playing has to be the friendships you make through it. Football has helped me create a bond with people that I can’t imagine I’d ever have created if I didn’t play the sport. It’s been the route of most of the friendships that I have now. Tied with that is the feeling of being a part of something. When you win there’s no better feeling than knowing you played a major part of the success, and when you lose you always have people around you that are feeling so similar. Ladies Football is a growing sport and it’s starting to get the recognition it deserves and I’m so proud and happy to be a part of that.

Q: Who was the biggest influence on your career?

2014 Hall of Fame recipient Phyllis Price. 

A: The biggest influence in my career was probably Phyllis Price, as previously mentioned. Phyllis is originally from my village too; she is a two-time All-Ireland winner and Hall of Fame recipient. When she came to train us in primary school, I was playing U8 and U10 with the boys’ club team because my twin brother was. I was playing midfield with them and I loved it, the idea of playing football with girls wasn’t a thought for me because I had until U12 with the boys anyway. But Phyllis knew I needed to get involved with a ladies team to make sure I continued playing when I got passed u12. She brought be to a nearby club and helped me join and get involved. I’ll forever have Phyllis to thank for bringing me along.

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

A: I think I’m lucky to not have faced too many challenges, if any big ones at all, and I haven’t been caught with any serious injuries. Personally, nervousness before games and lack of confidence might be the only challenge that I have faced throughout my career so far, but I think they kind of tie in together and count as the one. As I’m getting older it is becoming easier to deal with though, listening and learning about how other people deal with those things before games has been very beneficial. I do think its good to be nervous before a game but only to a certain extent. As far as lack of confidence goes, I’ve found that practising by myself or with my brothers has helped build it, it’s made me happier with my own abilities and I think it’s the only way to overcome it. As a club, we had to overcome the massive challenge of playing two Leinster semi-finals last year, 2019. We didn’t cause a stir over it when we maybe should have. This was a challenge for every player to accept and not let it get to us, as a club it definitely made us stronger and want to win even more but it shouldn’t have ever been a challenge that we had to face in the first place and I hope it’s not a challenge any ladies club ever has to come up against again.

Q: You’re renowned as an industrious midfield player. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?

Club-mate Lorraine Keena. 

A: This is a difficult question for me, mostly because of what I’ve just mentioned in the previous answer! I’m not actually sure what my greatest strengths are. Probably my communication on the pitch? From playing midfield with my clubmate, Lorraine Keena, she’s made me realise how important it is to communicate and continue to encourage others around you continuously on the pitch. I think doing this even helps you trick yourself in to thinking that you’re well able to keep going and you’ve loads left in you, if you’re able to tell someone else to keep going then you are able too! Lorraine has a constant talk while playing, and I’ve learned to do that to too. I’d like to think this is a strength of mine.

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

In action for DCU against UL’s Joanne Cregg.

A: I’m currently in my final year of college in DCU, working part-time and playing football for my club, county and college. It’s a busy lifestyle but it’s nice to always be busy! It helps that a lot of my friends are involved in sport, so our socialising is quite the same in that it’s based around training/matches. But trying to find the time to meet up with friends that don’t play sport gets quite hard, but it helps that they’re supportive! I’m lucky that my boss is understanding too and willing to give me days off for matches when needs be. Having a routine and supportive and understanding people around me helps balance everything out. Of course, it can get too much at times, but I think that’s when football aids as a distraction and allows me to forget about everything else going on. I wouldn’t change the busyness of it all for anything though, I’m grateful and lucky to have so much going on.

Q: You’ve had the proud experience of representing your county Offaly. How big an honour has that been?

A: It’s a huge honour for me, as I think it should be for anyone representing their county at any level. I’ve been lucky to be able to represent my county from underage the whole way up but unfortunately, we haven’t been overly successful in the last couple of years. I am proud to be able to represent Offaly, and I do believe we’re beginning to gain the respect of a county team within our county again and with more wins and success hopefully in the coming years, we’ll be able to regain and maintain a good standard of county football.

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

A: My main goal is to win a Senior Club All Ireland with Naomh Ciaran. After winning the Intermediate and competing at senior level in Leinster, it’s made the aspiration so much more realistic. It’s going to take a few years to build to the level of senior but as a club I know it’s our main goal. I’d also hope to do more for our club in the future, I’m not quite sure what but as well as being a player I’d like to be able to do more to benefit the club and give back for everything the club has done for us. In terms of Offaly football, I hope that we’ll get back to the level we were at when I began playing for the ladies’ team. It was much more competitive, there was more of an intertest by players in the county to want to represent the team and we were respected. I’d hope that in the next few years we’d be able to get back to that.

Q: Have you played other sports?

A: I have played many different sports growing up but none to the same level as I play football. I used to play badminton quite a bit and for a while it was between badminton and football as to which I was going to continue playing because the training sessions for each clashed. When I had to make the decision, football prevailed. I remember it being quite hard to make the decision, in the end the reason I chose football was because it was a team sport and I didn’t feel like I could let the girls down and stop playing whereas badminton was singles mostly so I wasn’t really a part of a team or letting anyone down. I continued to play badminton in school and really enjoyed it! I think when it comes to retiring (not for a long, long time please god), it will be a sport that I’ll get in to again!

Q: Do you have a favourite photograph from your career? Why does this photo mean so much to you?

A: This photo is immediately after the final whistle of our Intermediate Club All Ireland Final. In this picture I’m embraced with our trainer/manager Colin Kenny. This is by far my favourite photo and I always think it will be. Every time I look at this photo it brings back the feeling when the final whistle went. I was overcome with emotion and couldn’t hold back the beyond happy tears. Colin is a good friend of mine and many of the girls on the team so to have him play such a huge part in our win made it even more emotive. He has been a massive part in our success over the past few years and I think any of the other players, management, families, friends coming together with him after the game were very similar. We won the final by two points after a seriously intense and close game, I think the majority of the girls were in tears with the surreal feeling and this picture probably depicts exactly how they were all feeling too.

Q: You play your club football with Naomh Ciaran, winning an All-Ireland Intermediate title last year and contesting a Leinster Senior Championship semi-final last weekend. How have you found that experience and what is it about club football that’s so special?

A: It’s been an unbelievable experience so far. At the moment with club, we’re where we want to be. We’re competing in Leinster senior club championship. Last weekend we lost by a couple of points in horrendous conditions, it was our first game in senior championship, and we knew it was going to be a step up. We knew it was going to be another level, but we were still going into the match to win it, not just to see where we were at in comparison to a senior team. Winning the Intermediate Club All Ireland last year was just the start for Naomh Ciaran, as a club from here on we just want to keep progressing. With club so far, I’ve had nothing but surreal experiences. We’ve won six county titles in a row and I’ve been lucky to be playing midfield for them all. For me, club football is that extra bit special because you’re sharing the experience with people you’ve grown up with. It’s a huge part of the local communities, the winning, the losing, it all brings people together and that’s what makes club football so unique. There’s a clip of two of our players’ fathers in the crowd at last year’s All-Ireland final. There was a pause in the last few minutes of the game, in the clip the camera cuts from the pitch to the crowd, the two fathers were standing in the middle of the crowd leading the ‘Naomh Ciaran’ chant, watching that clip is just one example that shows why club football is so special.

Q: You’re coming up against a midfielder that you respect as a formidable opponent. How do you prepare and ensure that you can nullify your opponent’s strengths?

A: Personally, I don’t like to think too much about who I’m going up against, I get too nervous! I trust the management of whatever team it may be to tell me whatever I need to know about my opponent. If they have specific strengths that need to be restricted, then I would talk to management about how they want me to do so. I don’t like getting too caught up in how someone else plays, unless I’m appointed to specifically do a marking role. I would make sure that I’m clear on what my role is and how I was going to stop my opponent from getting the upper hand. I always think that winning the first few balls over your marker sets you off to a good start.

Q: What’s your career highlight?

A: It must be winning the Intermediate Club All Ireland last year, 2019. It’s an indescribable feeling. I think any club win that’s big is always going to be that little bit more special because of who’s around you. The feeling after the final whistle is indefinable but my favourite part of that evening was the homecoming. I remember the homecoming more than the actual match. Being on the bus and seeing the bonfires, the fireworks and family and friends gathered and how much support was out for us that evening was unimaginable. I didn’t ever believe that something like that would ever be done for a ladies team sport. I never thought that many people would be out to support and congratulate us, I didn’t think that we could make that many people so happy, and for me, that’s what playing for Naomh Ciaran is all about. It’s a feeling and a memory that I will cherish forever.

Q: How confident are you that Offaly can make a big impact in the 2020 TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship?

In action against Tipperary’s Samantha Lambert in 2017. 

A: With everything going on this year, it’s hard to know how we are set up going into the championship and how the teams we’re up against are prepared too. It’s been a difficult year and past few years with Offaly due to our lack of success but hopefully this year we can get a few wins under our belt and begin to build again. We have the talent in Offaly and the interest in playing for your county is sparking amongst players again and there is a bit more of a buzz at training. So, all going to plan and hoping to get the games played we will make an impact in the championship this year and most importantly build for next year.

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

A: Two things that I believe are so crucial are working on both feet and enjoying yourself. It’s only in the last couple of years that I really regret not working on my left foot while growing up. It’s such a skill to have to be able to be just as good on either side. I’ve always admired people who could do it but never thought to put the time and effort into it myself. If you’re equally as good on both feet you’re immediately at an advantage compared to a lot of people playing the sport already. I’d like to hope that everyone partaking in ladies football enjoys themselves, I know there are ups and downs with wins and losses but I think its crucial to be enjoying your sport overall. And if you’re not then find a sport that you do enjoy, because there is one for you.

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

A: ‘Express yourself’ was iterated to our club team throughout our whole 2019 campaign. Our management, of course, always did their homework and made sure we were prepared for the teams we were going to face, but it was never the main focus when going out to play them. They always told us to ‘express ourselves’. To me this meant, yes, play as a team but really go out and show how good we can play as a team. Play the best you can so it radiates and everyone else wants to do the same. It made the year so much more enjoyable and the most memorable games for us are the ones where we went out, played our own game and expressed ourselves, together. I think this advice is so important. It’s easy to get caught up in the intensity and seriousness of a game, but I think its vital to make sure you’re enjoying it, and an easy way to enjoy it is by expressing yourself.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?

A: I love just spending time with my friends. I’m not sure if it can be classed as a hobby but I really enjoy just meeting up and having tea and chats with friends, it’s without a doubt my favourite pastime. It’s nice to be able to meet up with the football girls but actually not talk about football. I really enjoy drawing and making scrap books, it helps quite a bit on the lead up to a big game, it’s a massive distraction and helps to not think about the game when nerves kick in. Another hobby of mine is going walking, climbing, hiking, anywhere scenic really, love a good spot for a sunset!

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: Dermot Kennedy, Michelle Obama, Katie Taylor, Michael D Higgins and Usain Bolt. A very random crew! I wouldn’t class myself as an even half decent cook, so I’d dish up my favourite takeaway, Lana – Asian Street food.

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

A: Any time that I’m asked this question there’s only one person that comes to mind. I’m not a huge boxing fan but Katie Taylor is definitely a massive sporting idol of mine. What she has done for women in sport alone is enough for me to idolise her. It’s not that I keep up to date with her career but more so her attitude towards sport and training that I admire. I’ll forever remember my Dad telling me about her when I was younger and asking me would I ever try boxing so I could be like her and bring the recognition to ladies’ sport that she has brought. This was a big no to the sport for me but everything that he idolised about her made me realise there’s so much more than just training hard in order to be successful. Her attitude and mentality are what I respect most about her. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I love what she has done for ladies’ sport and the respect she has brought to it.

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