I grew up in a football loving household. As my father was active in local football circles, throughout my childhood all the rising stars and established Irish players he knew were at home and away with us.
purs captain Danny Blanchflower; his brother Jackie, who played for Manchester United and was badly injured in the Munich plane crash; Celtic captain Bertie Peacock who returned home to be a restaurateur when he opened Bertie’s Bar in our town; and of course the hero of the Munich disaster, goalkeeper Harry Gregg. My father knew them all, Harry in particular remained a good friend until my father’s death in 2015.
From a very young age I was never away from the Showgrounds, there for most games in the company of my dad or my maternal grandfather, we were all there to cheer for Coleraine Football Club.
My own obsession with Liverpool FC also surfaced when I was a youngster; I had first seen them play against arch-rivals Everton in August 1966 in what was then the Charity Shield.
I was actually at Goodison Park with my dad on the day Liverpool won 1-0. Roger Hunt, Ron Yeats, Tommy Smith, Ian St John – they all took to the pitch that Saturday while their legendary manager, Bill Shankly, paced the sidelines like a man possessed.
And so began for me a love affair with both a football club and a game – the beautiful game – that has lasted a lifetime.
As a sporty child and the only girl on my way, I was tolerated by the boys and was allowed to play in “their” football team.
I still see myself at about the age of nine in mismatched striped shorts and an oversized dark green shirt.
On the back of the shirt, my father had sewn a white handkerchief and painted a huge black number 9 on it. Yes, I was the striker.
I wasn’t a bad player, and while I dabbled in soccer between hockey and running during my high school days, I continued to play whenever I could after college.
Never in an all-women’s team though – that just didn’t exist and if you suggested something like that you would have been laughed at on the pitch.
Again I played in a mixed team. Here, too, I was tolerated but not taken seriously.
Football is a great leveler. Rich or poor, short or tall, players are judged on skill alone. For far too long, however, only male ability counted.
But times are changing, as Bob Dylan told us, and girls are making it for themselves now.
So how encouraging to have a Women’s World Cup on the horizon and how wonderful to see our own women draw against the mighty Swedes this week.
It’s far from that oversized green shirt with the number 9 on a handkerchief.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/its-heartening-to-see-women-find-their-own-space-in-the-football-world-41551812.html It’s heartening to see women finding their own place in the football world