Interview with "Michelle Leggett"

1. When did you join the Club and when did you finish with AFC give a brief bio?
- I joined the Club in 2009. A sideline mammy waiting and watching my sons Aaron & Morgan at underage training. I started as an enthuastic mother with a strong background in sport and ended up with 12 years under my belt volunteering at AFC. I’m still doing a bit at the club coaching the Athenry Town team and supporting the continued success of the teams and club.

2. You were instrumental in bringing girls football back to AFC. When did it restart, who helped, how important is it to have girls in the club?
- Mike Noone over Morgan’s 2000-year in 2008/2009 boys age group had two girls who trained with the lads. I obliged Mike by staying on as an extra pair of eyes for support to the girls. One thing led to another and soon there were 6 girls and more wanting to play week in week out.
Double digits and I started to take the girls on quarter of the astro for the training sessions.
The numbers jumped to 21 all of a sudden. Help arrives Brid Sheehan started like myself waiting on the sideline for her daughter Aishling as she enjoyed her training. Brid started to help and it snowballed from there. By the end of the season with a mix of all age group girls together we had 46 religiously attending training. At this stage I had to chat to the committee and encourage them to avail the girls of a specific training slot on Saturday and one during the week for the older girls. So 2010 and the 1st season started for AFC girls with an increasing number to 130 on registration. Thanks goes out to the women that made it happen Brid Sheehan, Juliet Feeney, Fiona Lane, Tina O’Shaughnessy, Maura Tully, Anne Treacy, Grainne O’Hara, Brenda O’Shae, Jackie Lynskey, Collette Madden, Margaret Donohue, Eileen Cannon, Julie Tuohy, Megan Depina, Karen Burke & the men Roger Leggett, Colga Coye, Eamon Murray, & Jimmy Kinsella. 10 years on since the girls getting back into football at AFC and they are a huge contribution to the club giving young girls an opportunity to be part of an ever growing success story.

3. You were Chairperson for three years, what would you say your biggest achievements were?
- Yes I chaired the club for a three-year term. I think my greatest achievements were generating a positive vibe around the clubhouse on a Saturday morning. I just loved the camaraderie with Sharon Cooley on the front desk sorting the registration and membership details and Kathleen Caulfield with the shop giving the club that extra special inclusion feel.
Knowing that the children would come down all excited to be part of something they could enjoy, be part of and belong to.
Most of our time was spent working on ways to sort out Halloween, Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day events for the kids so they had a truly wonderful juvenile club experience. Many laughs were had and strong life bond friendships forged. Between 9am and 1pm every Saturday over 250 boys and girls would be coached.
The chair role had huge consequence in relation to abiding by rules and laws set by FAI, Galway FA and the government. With a huge support from my husband Roger we got the implementation set for child welfare and garda vetting, coach manuals and introductions procedures along with code of ethics for volunteers. For the club to generate and progress there was a huge push put on volunteers to be educated and achieve their club coaching badges from the FAI. I am proud that we had both male and female coaches ranging from ks1, ks2, Goalkeeping & youth cert awards in place for our club, which were the most abiding club at the time.
Setting up the Athenry Town Team. This team means the world to its players and me. World Cup Wednesday every Wednesday. We have lost a true captain and friend in Conor T (RIP) two fast years since yesterday actually 14th April 2018 who was the guiding force of it all.
Between fancy dress fundraisers, hitting the square inn for pints to watch Liverpool and setting foundations of friendship and social interaction for players that might not have an opportunity to be part of a team is truly a wonderful achievement. Working with the Brothers Of Charity and Skylark has really made this possible. Johnny Morris Burke is a steadfast supporter to us getting us involved with the Community Council for Football for All. This team also supports the TY students for work experience and Gaisce awards. This was then incorporated into the Saturday morning coaching to assist with the growing numbers of players as coaches were under pressure.

4. What are your three fondest memories being with the Athenry FC?
- Fundraising for the club - Sorting out the Fifty Shades of Grey Fundraiser with Sharon & Kathleen. We laughed so much. Bus trips to the Aviva for Ireland games, good times. FAI Easter camps for Girls and Summer camps for all what a buzz around the club.
Taking the u12 & u14 girls to Wales for a fantastic tournament. The bodhran got some belting and we flew our colors well. We brought home a huge CUP for team of the tournament. u14 Girls & u15 Boys trip to Salou 49 went out 49 come home. I believe that some of the most fantastic memories have been made for these players on that trip. 3 years ago today 15/04/2017 we were enjoying the finals in Salou.

5. Having organised and set up the Town Team, What has it brought to the players?
- Words cannot express the inclusion, enjoyment and team spirit generated by this group of players over the last 8 years. Sadly we miss our Conor T McNamara who was out on his own for interest, enthusiasm and love of the club. He branched into coaching as a support to me achieving his KS1 cert. Everyone is capable of achieving if given the opportunity and support. Cathy Vaughan rallied to get this off the ground. AFC can be delighted that it is a constant in the lives of local people with special needs. I am humbled by their commitment to making a go of this team. Peter Gilhooley would pop in on occasion to see the progress and I believe as Chairperson he is proud of this section of the club. Current Captain Pat Smyth just recently reminded me of things he cherishes in relation to his involvement with the club and this is what makes it all worthwhile for the members of Athenry Town. So from the bottom of my heart I give you Athenry Town Team by name:- Captain Pat, Lady Lisa, Doodles Siobhan Best Girl, Matthew, Niall, Shona, Tara, Cathal, CianO, Sinead, Seana, Tony Mc, Kevin, John, Robert, Patrick, John Michael, Chelsea, Ian and a special mention to their support workers Caroline, Suzanne, Dora & Jim and the fabulous Louise Yaxley.

6. What would you say are the strengths of the club?
- Established in the Galway FA as one of the flag ship clubs. Always striving to achieve success at all levels from teams to club needs.
Peter Gilhooley & Tommy Fahy's unrelenting support for the cause of AFC. Their passion and selflessness has no bounds.
Fresh blood in the structure of the Club with youth, experience and intelligence driving the club forward. Colin Bane, Mark Lawless & Retired players getting involved to keep the club driven forward for the current young players to have exceptional support.

7. What are the weaknesses or areas to be improved in AFC?
- In the past we have had amazing volunteers run the club all chaired with goals and passion for the club. I believe for a strong bright future for AFC we need to have an Air Tight Business/Development plan run by a committed committee, active members & steadfast volunteers who believe in the plan which should be the AFC Way. This should set a common goal for everyone rather than individual goals and achievements been met at the expense of the plan. More Volunteers bringing their expertise to the table from surveying, accountancy,
marketing, fundraising, coaches & management education, physiology, physiology, 1st aid, photographers, journalists, and Tech wizards to mention but a few anyone that can give their expertise to make the club the best it can be. I feel that the biggest problem in the past has been over jobbed volunteers holding committee rolls, club rolls & team rolls all in the one season, 50:50 visions for the club ethos, and non-accountability to club structure.

8. You’re currently involved with East Galway Celtics Basketball Club. How’s that going?

Would you consider getting back into girls football in some way?

Yes I’m Currently coaching the u15 boys at EGC basketball Club. I’m enjoying the coaching of the sport that’s my passion. I play for the Senior Ladies which is a team laying foundations for the rise of the upcoming girls.

In relation to getting back into girls Football at AFC I would never say never but needed a break from the club after my stint as Chairperson it really did take its tole on me.

On reflection of this read I have no wins to report with silverware but definitely had little wins for the club in relation to development of players and different aspects of the club. From Little stars, Girls, Special needs all part of the legacy I leave. My family is football crazy from pitch to sideline and it was to be part of their world I got involved. I’m very proud of our involvement with AFC as a family in general.

Thank you,
@athenry_afc / #athenry_afc