The GAA is a means of escape for us all.

There are many things I am thankful for growing up but the main one is being brought up by a family utterly obsessed with our national games. From the young age of five, I was sent out on a Saturday morning to the underage Camogie training and it was just great being let loose out on the GAA field. There’s no better way for a youngster to learn the ways of the world than to be thrown into the GAA deep end. This is where I learnt how to be a team player, how to be tough, how to become mentally strong and the likes.

The GAA teaches you discipline and focus, it teaches you to want something and to keep going, no matter how many times you get beaten, just like life you must keep going no matter how many times you may not want to.

One of the many joys of playing a team sport as a teenager is that I rarely felt unhappy or lonely as you always had your team mates to chat to. Honestly this was one of the main reasons I went to training on those miserable cold nights, it wasn’t all do to with winning championships or getting fit, although that certainly helped. It was seeing my best mates, the girls who I had grew up with, my friends for life.


Now coming from a large parish, most of us went to different schools so training was the perfect opportunity to catch up on all those important teenage topics, “who is her new boyfriend?” or “what are you wearing to the Elk next month?” (The Elk was ultimate teenage disco in the mid-ulster area). We all developed the skills necessary to be able to run a few laps and get in the craic in that short time period.

As a teenager the GAA was a particularly important part of my life as it kept me on the right path and honestly kept me sane. The mounting pressures on young girls wherever it be from school work or the pressures to look a certain way. I found the GAA gave me a coping mechanism to deal with all these pressures.

Nowadays with numerous social media platforms young girls are open to much more of these pressures, may it be to get a certain number of ‘likes’ on your Instagram or Facebook posts or to maintain ‘streaks’ on Snapchat. In times like these, I am thankful that the height of our social media back in the day was Bebo, and yet I still had days that I felt down but what helped me deal with these pressures was playing a team sport, no matter how stressed or annoyed I was or how much I was dreading heading out to train or play a game in the pouring rain I always went knowing that I would feel so much better for going. Coming back home buzzing, in such a good mood with a big smile on my face. (Subject to victory).

It is so stress-relieving to be able to let out all that energy you have bottled up all day and run riot for an hour or so. Wherever it is kicking a ball around or ‘pucking’ up against a wall, it just lets you get away from it all and escape.

But by age 13, half of girls have given up sport completely with the main reason for quitting being that their friends weren’t playing anymore. Many also lack confidence and feel that they are not good enough to keep playing. With academic pressure building it is important for parents, teachers and girls to understand that being involved in sport actually helps you academically and with your health and well-being.

If there are any young girls reading this, please keep going. You will thank yourself later.

Now all this chat has got me buzzing for pre-season training come the spring.

Obligatory Victory ‘Pile on’- Yes that is me waiting to jump on top of everyone! #tactical #KeepTheCupSafe

Carla McCloskey is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at  and on Twitter @Carla_Mac12


Life after Graduation… Not Sure What is Next?

If you are a final year student I am assuming you form part of the majority of people who are not too sure what they wish to do after graduating. With deadlines for the large organisations’ graduate schemes drawing close, I am beginning to feel a little over-whelmed. Do I want to apply for these jobs? Will it be a waste of my time? Or might I miss out on some amazing opportunities? If you are just finishing up after 18 years of education and aren’t too sure what the next step should be, then continue reading as I try to round up some of our options.


Grad 1 Now what

The vast majority of students go straight into full time employment whether it be after the summer or straight off the Waterfront stage. However, it is so important to choose the right way to start your career, as a graduate we have plenty of options, we may not have considered them just yet.

One of those options is to take a gap year as you may decide that after those many years of education you deserve a rest and rightly so! This is a great choice especially if you want to solely concentrate on your degree and achieve your target classification. Allowing you to not have to allocate time to get your CV up to date or to prepare for those tedious recruitment processes. You may get a visa and gain some life experience abroad or perhaps you might work part time in a job not related to your career choice. This allows time to plan your future career after you have your degree in the bag. This would suit you if you are not sure what you want to do next or if you want to gain experience in a particular area.


Grad 2 dont make me adult


If you decide you would rather do something else or continue to study after graduation there are loads of options here too. You might realise throughout your final year that this particular area of work is not for you, there is no need to worry as there is no requirement for you to follow this career path blindly. What’s important is that you stop and take count of your strengths and where they would be best utilised. You may decide that a post-grad course would direct you better in terms of what you want to do.

Whether it be at graduate fairs, in the numerous career services or even online you will recognise the major organisations offering graduate programmes, which are great as they offer investment to the potential high flyers. These highly competitive schemes usually last one or two years and provide you with experience in many different sectors within the company, enabling you to get a more fine-tuned view of what type of work would suit you best in your future career. This would suit you if you are highly ambitious and are comfortable in the corporate world.

It is important to remember that this is not the only option as a graduate looking for a job. The truth is that majority of graduates start their career on different routes.  Such as working for a smaller business, these roles may be less rigid allowing you to develop skills across a range of functions developing your career quickly, especially if you are willing to work hard. Some disadvantages of this type of work is that training and promotions may be less structured than in larger organisations and starting salaries less attractive. This will suit you if you are a learn quicker, creative and flexible.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to identify your values and passions, don’t rush to any decisions and never stop learning but always remember that the most important thing is to be happy in your work or study.

Grad 3 garlic bread


Carla McCloskey is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at  and on Twitter @Carla_Mac12