'The group has already formed a bond that promises tangible and sustainable leadership'

Former Donegal captain Nadine Doherty is one of 20 participants in the LGFA’s ‘Learn to Lead’ Female Leadership Programme. She is one of five participants in the PR/Media Strand and following Day 2 of the Programme at Croke Park last Saturday, when the entire group met once again as a collective, Nadine wrote this wonderful reflective piece. 


Now three months into Learn To Lead, expectations for Day 2 were high. The group has already formed a bond that promises tangible and sustainable leadership and change in Ladies Football. Surrounded by women who have created history both on and off the pitch, coupled with the members who are in the early stages of their journey with the LGFA, I find myself in the enviable position of being part of this incredible programme.


Keynote speaker was former Uachtarán na hÉireann, Mary McAleese, in conversation with Gráinne McElwain. The TG4 presenter has done as much for Ladies Football as the former President has done for our country. She is so proud of her affiliation with the LGFA and holds a deep sense of responsibility when it comes to the promotion of our game. Gráinne is very clear when she talks about the LGFA as being inclusive, innovative and polished; anything we do, we do well. She epitomises a product that is phenomenal, and has been on the journey from close to the beginning.

Mary McAleese is a woman close to all our hearts, who we have all felt a deep connection to at some point in our lives. Today was my first time hearing her speak in person and I was fascinated by her honesty and authenticity. She spoke of the female role models in her own life, her mother and grandmother. She spoke about growing up in Belfast during the troubles and being the eldest of nine children. She recounted her formative years with great humour. She spoke of her grandmother working every day of her life in the family home to provide for her children. Her mother left school at 15 to become a hairdresser, her father at 13 to work in a bar. During this part of the conversation my belief was reaffirmed, that too often we are searching for positive role models who we don’t even know. There is nothing wrong with doing this, because there are so many inspirational women out there, for us to look up to. However, it is important to remember and appreciate that our role model is often right in front of our eyes and is someone who has been in our lives from the very beginning.



She also spoke about her involvement in the human rights movement in Ireland for lesbian and gay people in the 1970s. When approached by David Norris to become legal advisor to the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, she didn’t hesitate in taking up the position. Her core values and beliefs, even then, were what drove her as a person to enact change. She is still fighting for those rights in more recent times, by challenging the Catholic Church on inclusion, and campaigning during the marriage equality referendum. She acknowledged the important role the LGFA are currently playing by supporting those of us who are still fighting for our rights as members of the LGBTQI community. At this point, I felt a deep sense of gratitude towards her and her fellow activists. I reflected upon how we often take for granted those who began the struggle to enact change, and now as leaders in the LGFA that responsibility is being passed on to us.


Our CEO Helen O’Rourke thanked the former Uachtarán for her support of the LGFA down the years. She recounted that ironically they both took office in the same year, 1997. The relationship would remain strong ever since, with a phone call between them always possible. The Uachtarán would attend All Star Banquets and other notable events. From those early days it was very clear that Mary McAleese would always be a strong supporter of the LGFA.


It is widely accepted that one of the most important qualities in a true leader is to empower others. We were all extremely privileged and thankful today to have been afforded the opportunity to listen to Mary McAleese, with every single person leaving, feeling a sense of empowerment.


Pedro Angulo, Head of Leadership in AIB, was the facilitator for the rest of the day. Hailing from Spain and married to a Cork woman the accent and humor he brought to the table was immediately engaging. He would deliver in the most uplifting manner, covering all facets of leadership. Like Mary McAleese, his core values are centred on inclusion; this is what drives him as a leader in his own field. We carried out exercises to discover who we are as leaders and how to better connect with others. We were challenged to identify our personal purpose moving forward, and given strategies to fulfill it. A multitude of analysis of leadership styles, qualities and strengths was carried out and reading, watching and listening lists advised. It may all sound extremely intense, but Pedro made sure that whatever intensity was brought to any exercise a brilliant sense of humor ensured a very relaxed atmosphere was also present.


It was very easy to see why Pedro is a leader in his field. He is authentic and is passionate about what he does. He also has very clear values and beliefs and is a true supporter of women and values us as leaders. His advice was to challenge ourselves and believe in our potential and ourselves as leaders, advice I feel every member of the LGFA can take on board.


Lyn Savage, National Development Manager, and Marie Hickey, Uachtarán Cumann Peil Gael na mBan, brought the day to a close with heartfelt and inspirational speeches. Lyn highlighted the important roles we now play within the LGFA to lead the Association into the future. We have a duty to promote our games and enable and inspire other members to become leaders.

Marie gave a heartfelt address that brought real emotion to the room, bringing us back to our roots, evoking real reflection on our responsibility to those who have come before us, and the young women who represent the future. She eloquently recounted the women who, 45 years ago showed such courage and bravery to fight for our rights to play Gaelic football. They faced adversary from every corner and were told they couldn’t and shouldn’t be fighting that fight, but they did. It is because of those courageous individuals that we found ourselves in Croke Park today, another generation who are part of a new movement to ensure our Association continues to thrive and grow, and in the future we can pass on the baton to another generation of leaders.


You can follow the journey of the 20 participants on the LGFA’s ‘Learn to Lead’ Female Leadership Programme. Click on this LINK to access links to their social media accounts. 



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