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Better late than never... busy mum makes her GAA county debut at 37

By Declan Bogue

Published 06/07/2016

Catherine Fletcher in action
Catherine Fletcher in action

Proof that you should never let go of your sporting ambitions was seen last weekend when mother-of-two Catherine Fletcher made her county Gaelic football debut for Derry against Antrim — at 37.

And that is not even the most impressive part of the story, because Catherine only took up Gaelic football four years ago after coming under intense pressure from her soccer team-mates to join them playing for St Eunan’s in Letterkenny during the summer.

“Last year, I had a good season, but I never imagined that I would play at county level,” she said. “This year, there was a post up on Facebook for trials for Derry and I just thought to myself, ‘You know what, I am going to go up and have a go to see’.

“It was up in Owenbeg just a month ago. I knew that I was playing well for the club — I am captain of St Eunan’s this year and I got player of the year last year. I know I am doing alright at it, so I thought that I would just go up and chance my arm at it.”

The teacher at Oakgrove Integrated College is from Ballymagroarty in Londonderry, but lives in Letterkenny with husband Keith, a DJ with Highland Radio, and her children Kian (7), Caitlin (9) and 19-year-old step-daughter Rebecca.

She previously played netball for Northern Ireland and competed in the European Championships and the 1999 World Championships in New Zealand.

A knee injury at the age of 22 brought her netball career to a close, but she has played soccer for 15 years with Quigley’s Point Swifts and Redcastle FC in the Inishowen League, Derry City Ladies in the Northern Ireland Premier League, as well as Letterkenny Rovers and Lagan Harps in the Donegal League, winning two Intermediate FAI All-Ireland titles with Harps.

Explaining her late conversion to Gaelic football, Catherine said: “Up until last year, I played soccer, and two of the girls who I played soccer with kept saying for me to come out to Eunan’s for the craic. I was going, ‘Ack, I don’t know’.

“They persuaded me to come out one night, and I was hooked straight away and picked it up.”

Having acquitted herself well at club level, the temptation was to play at county level. Although she has spent a long time in Donegal, growing up the family always shouted for Derry.

Catherine, who previously took part in a white-collar boxing fundraiser for St Eunan’s under the moniker ‘No Fear Fletcher’, said that she could not wait to get more county games under her belt.

“You have nothing to lose and I don’t see myself retiring in the next year or two,” she explained. “I want to keep going for as a long as I can.”

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