Pals Abbey Pollock and Alex Kelly, from Carryduff, tell Stephanie Bell how revolutionary contact lenses have made them even better at the sports they love.
They are the inseparable best friends who share everything, including a love of sport, and now together they are enjoying the freedom of not having to wear spectacles, thanks to revolutionary new contact lenses.
Ahead of National Eye Health Week this week, 12-year-olds Abbey Pollock and Alex Kelly have had their lives transformed in the past few months by the new nocturnal lenses which have allowed the girls to put their glasses away for good.
The new Orthos K lenses are worn at night when the children are sleeping and work to temporarily correct their vision so that they don't need to wear their glasses the following day.
The Methody first formers, who live in Carryduff and also share a love of the band One Direction, are only now aware of just how challenging playing sport had been when they depended on their glasses.
Both girls play hockey for Belfast Harlequins. Alex is also a judo champion with a host of top UK and Ireland awards, while Abbey is a keen gymnast.
Even though both have excelled in their sports, they now are thrilled to be playing with the added advantage of being able to see clearly for the first time – not just the hockey ball, but for Alex her judo opponent, while for Abbey the gymnastic bar is in much sharper focus.
The girls love the fact that they no longer have to worry about forgetting their glasses when they leave home.
Their lenses were fitted at Gillian Gervais Opticians in Ballynahinch. Gillian was one of the first opticians to bring the new lenses to the province and is still only one of a handful of companies to offer them.
It's only in the past year that the full benefits of the lenses have been realised and only now that word of their life changing advantages is starting to spread.
Nocturnal lenses are unique contact lenses that take away your short sight while you sleep. They do this by gently changing the shape of your eye in a controlled way.
All contact lenses change your eye in this way but nocturnal lenses are made to suit your eye precisely and enhance the effect to correct your eyesight.
Another main advantage is that wearers no longer experience problems with hay fever, dryness, air conditioning, wind, dust or slippage.
Alex lives just outside Carryduff with her parents, Ian (47), who runs his own lighting company, and Lynore (43), a civil servant, and her sister and brother, Robyn (16) and Cameron (15).
Alex, who has been wearing her lenses since the start of July, says: "It's just great that I can see easily and I don't have to wear my glasses.
"Playing hockey is less dangerous because I don't have to worry about my glasses falling off any more and I can see the ball much clearer now.
"In judo I had to take my glasses off and I couldn't really see much and now I can see my opponent.
"I didn't like wearing glasses or having to put them on as soon as I woke up every day.
"During PE, I couldn't see much and the lenses have really made a big difference to my life.
"The first morning after wearing them I was surprised to be able to read the text on the TV for the first time."
Abbey also lives in Carryduff with her parents, Andrea (45), a private healthcare manager, dad Peter (50), an IT officer, and sister Cara (15).
"I can see everything now which before would have been really blurry," she says.
"It's great not having to worry about bringing my glasses everywhere and before if I forgot them then I couldn't see. You don't feel the lenses in your eyes at night and then to wake up and not need them or glasses is great.
"When I played hockey I would have missed the ball before because I didn't see it. In gymnastics I can see the bar more clearly. It has given me more self-confidence as well."
Abbey's mum Andrea adds: "I've seen a big change in Abbey's confidence since she started wearing the lenses, she is definitely more outgoing. When she is in a group of friends it's made a difference to her that she doesn't have to wear her glasses.
"In hockey we heard they are going to stop kids wearing glasses and opt for goggles instead and we didn't want to have to do down that road. Also, in school Abbey would have had to sit at the front to see the whiteboard but now she can sit anywhere.
"It's little things like that which we all take for granted which have made such a difference to the quality of her life.
"Her eyesight had worsened quite a bit in the last year and what really sold the lenses to me was that they will slow that deterioration down.
"Abbey and Alex are very close and it's great that they are both enjoying this new quality of life together."
As the girls' optician, Gillian is thrilled by the feedback from clients and in particular the impact on the lives of children who are now wearing them.
Gillian, who has been an optician for 20 years, recently moved to new premises on the Belfast Road in Ballynahinch.
She is married to Richard, a chartered surveyor and they have three boys, Jack (16), Andrew (14) and Ross (7).
"It's brilliant the way the lenses are transforming lives, especially for young girls who reach an age when they want to wear makeup and are more conscious of their glasses," she says.
"Alex is really into her hockey and loves the fact that she can now see better on the pitch and I've seen a big change in Abbey's confidence, even in the way she holds herself when she comes in to my clinic.
"The benefits have only really been known in the past year and the lenses are for people who are short-sighted."
Gillian has personal experience of how wearing glasses can make a young person in particular feel self-conscious.
"I myself was really short-sighted at school and back then there were no thinned down lenses," she says.
"Wearing glasses made me really shy.
"I think I just hid behind my glasses and you don't feel like you are one of the cool kids.
"I didn't really speak to anybody until I started university, which was when I developed a personality.
"It's super that the lenses are available and it delights me to see young people grow in confidence through using them."
Life through contact lenses
The major benefits of Nocturnal Lenses are: