Orlagh Farmer Cork Football Woman of the Month

Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Month - May

11 Jun 2020
Caroline O'Mahony

The winner of The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for May 2020 is Gaelic football player Orlagh Farmer.

The panel of judges for The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman awards will recognise the priceless contributions so many of our sportswomen have been making to their communities since the corona virus struck until sporting activity can resume. Irish sportswomen deserve to be saluted for this as for their achievements in the sporting arena.

So, during these strange times we will honour one sportswoman each month, recognising  the efforts they are putting in for others and for sport at this time.

Orlagh Farmer has made a very firm resolution for when life gets back to normal. “I will never, ever complain about a training session again,” she laughs. 

The last one she attended was back in March with the Cork senior football panel, two days before everything shut down. “Little did we know then,” says the six-time All Ireland winner, “that that would be the last time we’d see each other for a few months.”

Farmer has put lockdown to good use, finishing her PhD, which focusses on the reasons why many young girls drop out of sport at an early age. As a player, coach, qualified PE teacher and lecturer at the Cork College of Commerce in Early Childhood Physical Activity she understands the challenges on that front.

And it’s her life’s passion to find solutions. While there are multiple reasons why an estimated 50 per cent of young girls drift away from sport, she says that one of the major factors is that they simply stop enjoying it. 

It could be through boredom, coaches being too strict, the girls just lacking confidence. What came through massively in my research is that fun and enjoyment are the biggest motivators for them staying in sport

Orlagh Farmer

Farmer has used her research to inspire a series of online videos over the past three months largely aimed at those girls. The sessions combine lessons in the basic skills of football with everything from dancing to Tai Chi, all designed to make them both instructive and fun. 

She has been blown away by the reaction. “Initially it was only supposed to be for a week, but because I got great feedback from clubs all over Ireland I decided to keep it going. I never expected it, but they really took off.”

“I started with a five day football challenge, with a different focus each day. There was Monday Fun Day, Target Tuesday, Workout Wednesday, Tai Chi Thursday and Fitness Friday. I was just trying to be creative, to put some fun in to it. They feed in to my research, it’s all about promoting sport for girls, that’s what I’m passionate about. And the worry was that during lockdown, more girls would drift away from football. This was all about keeping them involved, encouraging them, getting them to work on their skills and, most of all, to have fun with it.”

“Even though I’m submitting the PhD, it’s only the start of the journey, I want to develop it further and just give back - because football has given me so much.”