"Seeing such a contraption on my arm wasn't a nice sight" - My LGFA Life with Down's Natasha Ferris

Natasha Ferris – My LGFA Life

Age: 30

Club: Bryansford

Occupation: Accountant

County Debut: Senior 2007

Notable Achievements: National League Division 3 Title, Senior Club Championship, Senior Club League (x3)


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

A: I have loved my experience with Ladies Gaelic football, it has provided me with some great memories over the years and I look forward to making some more. There have been plenty of defeats and low points but even after all of that I am always dying to get back playing and involved again.

It has also helped with other aspects of my life, including my career and personal life. Striving to be the best and setting myself goals has reflected my life off the field as well.

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

A: I was a mad Manchester United fan when I was younger (still am) and would have been out in the street playing football with the boys. So, it was more the soccer I was interested in at the start, then my dad brought me over to Bryansford girls’ training and I haven’t looked back since. Can still remember him taking me by the hand over to the back pitch, I was so excited to get playing on a girls’ football team.

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

A: My first experience of county was at U14 level, to get the jersey at such a young age was very exciting. Being selected as one of the best in the county gave me great confidence and belief in my abilities.

My Down senior debut was in 2007, a League game against Donegal, and Championship in 2008 against Meath. Down had brought in a fantastic management team of Paul McShane and Sean O’Hare, they had ran a number of trials and thankfully I got the call to say I had been selected for the squad.

I started the championship game against Meath playing alongside some exceptional players like Michaela Downey, Kyla Trainor, Lisa Morgan, Aileen Pyers, Sinead Murphy. It was a privilege to pull on the Down jersey and to play alongside some great players, and I still wear the Down jersey with such pride.

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

A: For me, and I think most people would say the same, it’s the friends you make along the way. To be able to play alongside your friends and family and to work towards a common goal with them is fantastic.

I enjoy the competitiveness of matches and the buzz you get from the big games.

I love the sense of community within Ladies Football and how everyone pulls together, especially through tough times. Recently, the Down Senior ladies team have organised a fundraiser in memory of former Down player Siobhan McCann, who sadly passed away last year. Each Ladies club team ran 100k last Saturday May 16 with all money raised going to Newry hospice and Cancer fund for children. It’s great to see all the ladies’ teams in Down coming together in memory of such a special person and two greats causes.

Q: Who was the biggest influence on your career:

A: Underage management in Bryansford – Siobhan Corrigan and Veronica Owens. If it wasn’t for those two chasing and picking me up here there and everywhere, I mightn’t be playing Ladies Football right now. They played a massive part in my career from the start and I will always be grateful for that.  Even now, 20 years on, when I bring my nieces down to training, you will still find Siobhan and Veronica coaching the underage.

Benji Ward also had a big influence on my career, he managed me with both Bryansford and Down and made me captain of the Bryansford Senior ladies when I was maybe 18 or 19, something I was very shocked about at the time but looking back now it was a massive turning point for me. It made me more committed and has brought out the best in me, I love helping the girls around me and trying to get the best out of them.

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

A: I suffered a pretty horrific wrist injury during a club championship match in 2016, which kept me out of action for 9-10 months. I was in hospital for a number of days and required surgery which resulted in me having an external fixator in my arm for 7-8 weeks. Waking up, and seeing such a contraption on my arm, wasn’t a nice sight.

I wasn’t sleeping with the pain and awkwardness of the fixator in my arm and couldn’t do normal day to day activities like washing, tying my hair or laces, cutting up my food, and I wasn’t able to work for a few months.

Both physically and mentally, coming back from it was a challenge for me. People would have been saying they didn’t think I’d play again, or I’d be mad to play again after such a bad injury. At times, I also questioned whether I could play again but as soon the pain eased and physiotherapy started, I couldn’t wait to get back playing. I would still be quite nervous at times when I’m playing and continue to wear my wrist brace, it gives me that sense of security.

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

A: I am an accountant and work in practice, so it’s mainly 9-5 office work. Midweek routine is usually in the door after work, quick change around and back in the car to head to training in Belfast or Newry.

Before the lockdown, I was out nearly every evening, training with county three times a week and the same with club. I also helped out with our club minor team and was hoping to be involved with the club U8s and U10s again this year. In the middle of all of this, planning my wedding, so It was pretty full on.

I suppose it’s about managing your time as best you can and planning the week ahead, I would maybe have minor training 6-7, then seniors straight after, or call to U8s for half hour, then drive to county training. There would have been the odd complaint about not having a night off but at the minute you’d do anything to have those busy nights back again.

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

A: I’d definitely hope to win another National League with Down and start moving up the divisions. I didn’t play the year Down won the All-Ireland Intermediate title, so I’d love to win an All-Ireland and play at Croke Park with this current squad.

With club, I’d love to win another Senior championship, we’ve had a tough few years and for the younger girls coming up there hasn’t been much success. They have stuck with us through the hard times, when they easily could have walked away. I’d love for the more than anyone to win a championship and make those great memories.

On a personal level, I hope to stay fit and be able to contribute to the success of both county and club.

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

A: Winning the Senior Club championship with my partner, Amy. We had both worked so hard that year to help Bryansford win the title so when we actually achieved that together, it was amazing.

Q: What’s your career highlight?

A: With county, it would have to be beating Armagh in the National League Division 3 Final in 2013. No-one gave us a chance and against all the odds, we performed unbelievably to beat them and lift the cup. We played Longford in the semi-final and were down by 11 points at one stage and came back to win by one point. I kicked the winning free with the last kick of the game.

With club, it was definitely winning the championship in 2012. We were beat in the Final the year before by a single point after leading by 12 points. It was such a relief to finally get over the line. In Ulster, we beat Lacken in the quarter final and unfortunately ended up getting beat by a very talented Termon team in the Semi Final. It was a great experience and I loved playing at that level with my club mates.

Down captain Sinéad Fegan with the cup after victory over Armagh in 2013. 

Q: How confident are you that Down can return as a major force in Ladies Football? The recent signs appear to be positive?

A: Caoibhe (Sloan) and Peter (Lynch) have come in and totally changed things for the better, they have brought professionalism, organisation and most importantly have made it very enjoyable. They have left no stone unturned, we’ve a great strength and conditioning coach, nutritionist, physio, and we’re getting well looked after. The county board have been great in backing them as well.

We had started this season strongly and were pretty confident with two games remaining that we would reach the National League Final but it wasn’t to be.

There’s a great bunch of girls involved this year, everyone gets on so well and it feels more like a club team than a county team. There’s still a lot to come from this team and I’ve no doubt we will be successful in the future If we stick together. I can’t wait to get back playing with them again and push towards making Down a better team.

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

A: Liam Murphy – ‘You are longer not playing than you are playing’ so go out and give everything and have no regrets. This has stuck with me since and the older I get the more I appreciate it.

When I was making the decision to go back and play county this was in my mind – I knew I wouldn’t have many more years left to play at the top level and didn’t want to have any regrets.

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

A: Work hard on your skills, both left and right side, and listen to your coaches they are always wanting to get the best out of you.

I remember when I was younger, sitting in the changing rooms after defeats thinking I would have plenty of years left to win Leagues, Championships or play county, but the time goes by so quickly. Make the most of your opportunities and give your all in every training session and game you play.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?

A: I play soccer for Downpatrick ladies, its great craic and less pressure. The team is actually mainly made up of two Gaelic teams – RGU and Bryansford.

I have recently taken up golf, I live in Newcastle and have a great golf course on my doorstep so decided to give it a go and I am really enjoying it.  It’s something I’ll give more time to when I eventually retire from football (hopefully not for quite a few years yet).

I love travelling and would try to get skiing most winters. I also enjoy going to Old Trafford to watch the mighty Man Utd, although I didn’t get there as much this year as I would have liked.

Spending time with my family is really important to me, especially my nieces and nephews, they are great fun.

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 would probably be out the back cooking a feast on the BBQ.

Alex Ferguson – In my opinion the best football manager of all time, would love to hear some of his stories and get an insight into his management style.

Kourtney Kardashian – my guilty pleasure, I always get a good laugh watching the Kardashians, especially Kourtney.

Adele – she seems great craic and would belt out some good tunes.

Joe Wicks – I’ve been a bit obsessed with him the past few years, he seems like great craic as well.

Amy Nicholson – There’s no party without Amy, plus she would be raging if she missed out on the above guests!

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

A: As a Manchester united fan, Paul Scholes was my favourite player, his all-round game was brilliant and a joy to watch.

When I was younger kicking about, I would pretend I was Down men’s players Mickey Linden sticking over points and hitting the net.

I hope with more coverage and recognition of Ladies Football, young girls growing up now will have female athletes to look up to and aspire to be like.

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