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'We all want to to be like Ronaldo and Messi, but I always looked up to people closer to home'

Saoirse Noonan looks at some sporting inspirations in her weekly column.

IN LAST WEEK’S column, I wrote about making my Cork senior debut in the Munster final and playing alongside girls I’ve looked up to through the years.

When many think of ladies football in Cork and those 11 All-Ireland titles won in 12 years, they think of Rena Buckley.

Rena retired from both inter-county football and camogie a few weeks ago so I never got to play with her, but I’ve been lucky enough to meet her a few times.

Rena Buckley lifts the O'Duffy cup Rena Buckley. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

What she has achieved is amazing, I think people are just in shock of everything she’s done. Say it was a man who won 18 All-Irelands, everyone in the entire country would be praising them whereas it’s slightly more under the radar with Rena.

She’s incredible, and a massive inspiration to anyone playing any sport.

I think my biggest inspiration in sport would have always been my Dad. He’s always been so encouraging, getting myself and my brother and sister out the door to training every Saturday morning without fail.

That’s where it all started — and he’s probably the only person I still pinpoint as someone I look up to right now, but can’t forget the main woman, my Mom, who is also our taxi service.

Before every match, I go for my words of wisdom from him and he’ll tell me what I should do. He’s the person that’s always driven me on, pushed me to do better.

I don’t think I’d ever have the motivation myself to do it. Like if I don’t train hard, he’d be on to me and telling me to pull up my socks.

Obviously we all look at the likes of Messi and Ronaldo and want to be them basically, females then it would be Alex Morgan and Denise O’Sullivan. They all inspire us. When I was younger, I was in awe of Ronaldinho. But no one knows his full past.

That’s why I think that growing up, I always looked up to people closer to home. James Masters being one.

James Masters James Masters. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

 

When Dad used to bring us to Nemo Rangers training, I’d watch his every move. He was their best player, could score from anywhere. I couldn’t get over how good of a footballer he was. It’s weird saying that now because he’s our assistant coach with Cork.

The other person I really looked up to growing up was Clare Shine. She’s my partner up top at Cork City now and one of my best friends so that’s a strange one too.

The fact that James was from my club, and then Clare was in my soccer club Douglas Hall, I was able to see them achieve first-hand and realise I could do the same.

I used to always think if they can do it, what’s stopping me from doing it?

Likewise with Dad, he’d be saying, ‘Look at James, he can do it. Look at Clare now, she can do it so why can’t you?’

It’s funny because I hang out with Clare every day now but I remember when I was younger, I just looked at everything she did and wanted to be just like her.

One day she asked me to go training with her in Douglas Hall, my heart was absolutely racing, like I nearly couldn’t go.

She gave me this Ireland rain jacket, and when I look at it now it’s the ugliest rain jacket ever. She had it on her, she took it off and handed it to me. I used to cherish the jacket, hardly took it off my back.

Claire Shine with Ana Borges Marques Clare Shine. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

I suppose it’s similar now, well I’m experiencing it from a different angle with younger kids looking up to me. Even my little sister’s friends, when they’re at the house.

They’re 15 and 16 — it’s weird like, I’m only 18.

In town the odd time, I’d recognise kids from summer camps and awards nights and things like that, and they’d come up saying hello.

I remember seeing one of the wee girls in town one day and her saying to her Mam, ‘There’s Saoirse Noonan!’

It is weird, but it really does put a smile on your face and motivate you. You’re like, ‘I was in their shoes before’. It’s nice to see to be fair, and it drives you on.

Just like all those sporting inspirations mentioned above did for me when I was growing up.

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