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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

Women in Sport: Laois GAA star Mo Nerney


By Mo Nerney
18th Sep 2022
Women in Sport: Laois GAA star Mo Nerney

In this instalment of our Women in Sport series, we hear from Laois Ladies Football star Mo Nerney on the stigma surrounding women in sport, and the importance of young women pursuing careers as athletes.

From team mascot to star player, Laois GAA footballer Mo Nerney has been celebrating achievement after achievement in her sporting career of late. From the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Final victory to winning the ZuCar Golden Glove award for 2022, Nerney is a key player with a very bright future.

Mo Nerney

Name: Mo Nerney

Profession: Garda

Tell us a little bit about your club?

My club is Timahoe. It is a small village situated 10 minutes from Portlaoise. The club was founded in 1987. We have approx. 200 members in our club.

Earliest sporting memory?

Winning Cuman na Mbunscoil for my school The Heath NS. Been mascot for Laois Ladies in 2001 All Ireland.

How did you become involved in your sport?

Sport is all I knew grown up. My Dad has always been heavily involved in GAA all his life. Both my older brothers and sisters played it and still do play.

What message would you like to share with young women and girls interested in pursuing a career as an athlete?

I would encourage young girls and women pursuing a career as an athlete to play as many sports as possible before you choose a specific sport because it will build a solid foundation. Playing as many sports and participating in different physical activities when you are young is very beneficial as it helps to develop skills that will be transferable to the sport that you eventually choose. When I was growing up, I played soccer, rounders, basketball, and Gaelic. I dabbled in a bit of everything. I was very lucky that both my Primary (The Heath NS) and Secondary (Scoil, Christ Ri, Portlaoise) schools offered a wide range of sports and activities to participate in class and at a competitive level. The PE programmes in both schools allowed me to develop a wide range of skills that I have transferred to Gaelic football. I would also encourage young girls to become a member of a team regardless of the sport because it is so important for building friendships. I have made life-long friends from playing sports and it also means that I have a large group of friends that I can rely on. Playing sport has given me those friendships. As part of a team, there is a great sense of belonging because you are part of a sporting community.

Proudest moment so far?

Winning Intermediate All Ireland with Laois.

The female athlete I currently admire most is… Katie McCabe because the drive, commitment, and passion she has for our country is amazing.

Favourite sporting memory… Winning Intermediate All Ireland with Laois.

Do you think there is still a stigma around women in sport?

Yes, there are still stigmas around women in sport but it has changed hugely in particular during the last 5 years due to the promotion of women’s sport. In Ladies Football This is thanks to LGFA, WGPA, LIDL and the national campaign “Women in Sport” which has given investment and funding to women’s sports has greatly helped to reduce stigma surrounding Ladies football and promotes female athletes. Previously, Ladies football may have been perceived as being played at a slower pace and less physical in comparison to other sports. In recent years the pace of the game has increased hugely due to the grants available to county boards to fund strength and condition and nutrition programmes for players. The access to gyms means that players undertake intense strength and conditioning programmes in preseason which has significantly improved the speed that the game is played at. The fact that the games are now televised by TG4 and the sponsorship of Ladies football by Lidl has been a game changer. It has catapulted Ladies football and the profile of players into the media and public forum. Female Ladies Football players are now becoming household names which is fantastic for the sport, and it is also the case in women’s soccer and rugby for example. Records attendances at games in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day are growing each year and it is giving young people and in particular young girls the opportunity to watch and be inspired by players.

What is the biggest barrier to driving visibility in women’s sports?

One of the main barriers that still exists in Ladies football is access to facilities including GAA grounds and gyms. It can be very difficult to plan a training schedule as access to facilities is difficult at both club and county level. But at the same time, it is improving year by year and rightly so.

If I wasn’t an athlete, I would be… I couldn’t see myself doing anything else only playing sports, it’s always been my life.

My favourite pre-match meal is… Chicken, Chorizo & Pasta.

My pre-game playlist includes… Coldplay, listening to Podcasts.

My biggest sporting goal is… To really go on and make a mark at senior level with Laois ladies. We are back where we want to be so its time to embrace it.

Sports brands I love (Irish or otherwise): Nike, Adidas, Gym & Coffee, Sweaty Betty.

How do you mind your mental health?

Always focus on the positives and things that you can control. Putting away the phone and pick up a book. Go on walks. Try to be surrounded by family and friends as much as possible. Always do the little things that make you happy.

My three desert island beauty products are: Hairbrush, Moisturiser & Concealer.

I need 8 hours of sleep a night because: it is so important to get sleep between training/work life.

Confidence to me is… Always be sure of yourself and your abilities. Focus on the things that you do best.

How do you get over a bad match/performance?

Firstly, analyse it, learn from your mistakes and what you need to improve on is so important for the next game. But at the same time don’t dwell on it too much and keep looking forward to the next training/game.

Lastly, why is sport such an integral part of community, on a club, local, national, and personal level?

Sport offers so much to anyone that is involved in it. Personally, For me I have made the best of friends through it, I have got to travel the country with it and I have realised what it means to be part of a team. I think anyone could agree with that if they are involved in Sport.

Imagery courtesy of Mo Nerney