Laois and Portlaoise star Ciamh Dollard describes her supporting and playing memories with Portlaoise for the 2016 book “Portlaoise G.A.A. 1887-2016 C’Mon The Town“
How did I get involved: I started playing with Portlaoise ladies at the age of eight. Back then there was no u8 so it was straight in with the u12 teams and the girls used to always make a joke out of the fact that I was u12 for so long. I started playing football with the Scoil Bride and a lot of the girls were playing with Portlaoise so that’s how I started to play with the club. At underage we were consistently successful we won leagues and county championships from u12-u18 and at most ages I have multiple medals where we won year after year.
Heroes: Growing up I had many heroes mostly from the Laois ladies team, Sue Ramsbotton, LuLu Carroll, Angela Casey, Trish Fogarty, Mary Kirwan, Mary Casey, Tracey Lawlor and all the players of that era. We used to travel to the ladies matches and support them especially in 2001 when they won the Brendan Martin Cup. I remember Tania Maher, Gemma Lawlor and myself were fortunate enough to have gotten tickets in the front row via Gemma’s mother, Annette, and will never forget the atmosphere in Croker that day when Mary Kirwan kicked that point and Laois were crowned All-Ireland champions. It was electric.
Funny Memories: Wow there’s so many some that wouldn’t be appropriate for this history (haha) but just a few to mention we were away on a team bonding session with Laois and we were doing a talent show. Emer Barry and myself came in as weight watcher consultants but we came in dressed in these sumo suits. The crack and laughs from the girls was epic. Another funny moment was at the expense of my club mate Ashling Keogh. As we know Keogh is a forward but playing in a soccer game one evening Ash was in the backs and made an attempt to clear the ball only to miss the ball completely and end up in the ditch beside her. To this day she never lives it down. Or the way Ellen Healy used to solo the ball was comical. She used to bring her foot to meet the ball instead of letting it drop onto her foot. She’s also a target for the skit for either her soloing technique or her choice of football boots as the colour more often than not resembles the colour of a sweet from the quality street box. Finally you have Alison Taylor who is not only known for her great footballing skills but also her acting skills and these first became evident in the Féile u14 final when she got a bloody nose and was told to go down. We knew nothing until she was lying on the ground after fainting for a few seconds. Well this is according to the referee’s report that is!
Soccer: Played soccer from a young age with Portlaoise AFC under the fine management of Marie Christie Healy and after a time Catherine Bergin also got involved and assisted Marie. We won numerous awards under age and also were successful when we entered the Kilkenny ladies senior league. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to play with Midlands and South Leinster teams and I was also very fortunate to represent my country at U15,U17 and U19 level. During that time we got to travel to numerous different countries including Germany, Portugal and Croatia twice and I was also due to travel to Poland but unfortunately due to an injury I sustained the day before I couldn’t travel. It was a great experience to have competed at such a high standard and a great achievement to have had the opportunity to play with and compete with the best players in the game at each of the different levels. Which is my favourite game: That’s a tough one but it has to be football although I do miss playing soccer.
Most memorable game: My most memorable game for club was my championship debut for the senior team. It was in Portlaoise against Timahoe in 2007. I came on as a sub and I remember being so nervous. Coming on at 15 year of age playing at senior level was a big deal because you were playing with and against the best of the best in the county. The most memorable game for the county would have to be beating Meath by one point to win the Leinster Final. Sinead Doogue pointed in the last minute or two to win the final in 2011 in Dr Cullen Park.
Biggest disappointment: The biggest disappoint to date for me is losing the All-Ireland semi-final to Dublin in 2010 in Dr Cullen Park. They got a goal in the last few minutes and then went on to win that year against Tyrone. It has to be the biggest disappointment so far.
Hopes for Portlaoise: Hopefully we’ll drive on as a team and please God we’ll be contesting for our first senior championship this year and win it. We have a very talented young bunch of girls and have great capability to win the championship this year Laois are rebuilding and finally this year we’re starting to get back on track again. We have a great bunch of girls on the panel and I believe there’s a Leinster title in us this year so hopefully we’ll be competing for the title come July.
Match preparations: I’m a creature of habit. To be honest like every player if we find something works for us we tend to keep doing it personally. I tend to have the same meal the evening before and clean my gloves and pack my bag and come match day then I stick a few tunes on when we get closer to the game to get in the right mindset.
Younger players: My advice to the younger players is to play at the highest level possible, get to the highest standard and compete against the best players and drive yourself to be the best you can be.
Frustrating: Personally I think the men and woman should be treated equally. For example we have to raise our sponsorship for gear etc (which might I add I’d like to pay a special thanks to George Plunkett of Peigs Bar whose my sponsor) but regarding the men they have gear, vouchers, meals after training, travel expenses etc. Personally I think everything should be on an equal basis and I know the WPGA are working hard to try and make this happen. Also the awareness and publicity of the ladies game I feel is not pushed or covered as much as it should be. For example if the ladies game was played in the same venue as an opener to the men’s game and the profits were split it wouldn’t only be pumping money into the ladies game but it would also be an opportunity to showcase the ladies game to a bigger audience and make people more aware of the game and talent in ladies football. Also in the ladies game we have the sin bin. It’s 10 minutes on the line when you receive a yellow card. In time I’d like to see the time reduced on that as the ladies game is 30 minutes aside and I think 10 minutes is to long of a time frame to be out of the game.