In this instalment of our Women in Sport series, we hear from Emma Duggan on her proudest moments, sporting inspirations, and changing attitudes on and off the pitch.
Meath Ladies, St Peters Dunboyne footballer and three-time All-Ireland winner Emma Duggan is renowned as perhaps the most potent forward in the game right now. As well as playing club football for Dunboyne, she has played at every level for her county from the age of 12 and has become a household name over the last three years.
She was nominated for Intermediate Player of the Year in 2020, followed by nominations for Senior Players Player of the Year in both 2021 and 2022. Meath won the Intermediate Championship in 2020 (she scored seven points in the final), and she has since gone on to win two senior All-Ireland titles.
In 2021, she completed her Leaving Cert and then went on to help Meath create one of the most historic moments in Ladies Football when the county beat Dublin to win the Senior Championship in their first year of promotion. Emma also picked up a TG4 Ladies Football All-Star Award for her play in both 2021 and 2022.
Off the football pitch, Emma has been awarded scholarships by DCU, for both her sporting and academic endeavours, and by Leinster LGFA. She is currently in her second year studying Accounting and Finance in DCU.
Name: Emma Duggan
Profession: Student / Meath Ladies GAA Footballer
Earliest sporting memory?
Playing the autumn blitz every year from the age of 6-10 in my local GAA club with the lads. Had to learn to hold my own!
How did you become involved in your sport?
My dad has always been a massive advocate for GAA, he was heavily involved in Gaelic all his life, both as a player and a coach, so he encouraged myself and my siblings from a young age to become involved. I used to always go outside my house and up to the pitch kicking ball with him, and followed him around the county to games and even training sessions that he was involved in… I fell in love with football from there.
What message would you like to share with young women and girls interested in pursuing a career as an athlete?
You have to be willing to learn and constantly improve. Honesty, stubbornness and the ability to motivate yourself are the keys to success. Something I’ve learnt over the years is to never get too low with the lows or too high with the highs, to enjoy the good days, embrace the bad days, because it is always the journey more so than the destination that you will look back on with a smile.
Proudest moment so far… winning our first Senior All Ireland against Dublin in 2021.
The female athlete I admire most is… Katie Taylor. It may sound like the most predictable answer, but it’s not just what she has achieved that I admire, it’s her resilience, work ethic and determination. She has achieved the pinnacle of boxing success and yet she still finds the motivation and hunger to want more. The way she holds herself is inspiring.
Favourite sporting memory… winning three senior county titles in a row this year with my club Dunboyne.
Do you think there is still a stigma around women in sport?
Although a lot has changed in recent years with regard to women in sport, a stigma still exists. Women probably have to achieve a lot more to get the same recognition a male would for something smaller, perhaps. But people’s mindsets and attitudes are changing towards women in sport and people can see the levels that females can perform at, and that the time and effort we put in is on par with our male counterparts
What is the biggest barrier to driving visibility in women’s sports?
Capital and revenue is one that springs to mind straight away. I believe merging boards — for example, LGFA and GAA — would assist massively in overcoming the gap that exists.
The biggest stigma/pre-conception that exists in women’s sport is… I think people have always had the perception that women aren’t “strong enough” to play sport or that we couldn’t possibly have the skills necessary to compete at a high level in our sport. However, the more visible female sport has become, the more I see and hear these pre-conceptions dying out. A lot of people nowadays comment on the physicality and power of women in sport and this change in language can only be encouraging for years to come.
If I wasn’t an athlete I would be… a sports psychologist! I have a massive interest in this area.
My favourite pre-competition game meal is… a toasted chicken pesto panini with a blueberry Activia yoghurt.
My pre-competition game playlist includes… absolutely everything and anything. I often get slagged for my choice of pre-match music, it’s quite slow and calming more so than anything else. A bit of Mimi Webb, The Greatest Showman, Ed Sheeran, Becky Hill… the list goes on.
My daily routine is… it’s quite varied actually, depending on college timetables, etc. I generally like to get a walk in every day. I usually have some sort of college work to do for a couple of hours and then most days either a gym session, pitch session or a swim on recovery days. And with all of that, a lot of eating and/or thinking about food!
My biggest sporting goal is… to improve myself every year and reach my full potential. Along with that, I’d like to add a few more All Irelands to the collection with Meath, and more silverware with my club also!
Sports brands I love (Irish or otherwise)… football boots — Adidas, always. Clothes wise, Nike, Under Armour, and Sweaty Betty. I also take a few supplements from Kinetica, I’m a big fan of this brand.
Biggest splurge to celebrate a win… nothing in particular, maybe just eating whatever I want for a few days!
How do you mind your mental health?
We are lucky in Meath that we have access to an amazing sports psychologist in Kelley Faye. I make it my business to check in with her every so often, no matter how well/how bad things are going. Other simple things like going for walks to get some time by myself to reflect on things, going for coffee with friends and just checking in with family every once in a while. I also like to take time to do gratitude every now and again, however, it’s something I would like to make a habit of in my daily routine, as I believe it’s so important.
My three desert island beauty products are… I don’t own too many products at all… Some sort of moisturiser, Vaseline and Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter.
I need 7 hours of sleep a night because… no one wants to see me tired!
Confidence, to me, is… being comfortable with who you are as a person and understanding your self-worth. The way you talk to yourself goes a long way here. No two people are ever going to be the same and being aware of this is important. It is also understanding your potential and being open to bettering yourself and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
How do you get over a bad performance?
A lot of self-reflection first of all. Writing down three things I did well and two things I can improve on for the next day. I often consult with management and coaches and gather their opinion and ideas on how I can also better myself. I also have a chat with the sports psychologist to reset and refocus.
Lastly, why is sport such an integral part of community, on a club, local, national and personal level?
On a personal note, it’s hard to put into words how important sport is in my life. I have created some of my best friendships through sport along with the most special of memories from being involved in sport. Sport is an escape for so many and is often the bond that brings people together. No matter where you go in the world, sport will always follow you whether it’s through the people you meet or the habits you hold. There’s no comparison and I am forever grateful to have it in my life!
For any enquiries about Emma, visit Navy Blue.
Photography by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile.
This article was originally published in January 2023.