Natalie (or Nat) is not just a Cilles player, she is the daugher of an olympic boxer, a college student, a hard worker, hard trainer, tough nut and club woman! Like a few of our amazing players, Natalie’s efforts don’t stop on the pitch, she is a volunteer for the Cilles and contributes to our success in more ways than one. Below she has answered some of our questions about family, football, positive health, heroes, the GAA and St Colmcilles.
Tell us about yourself Natalie?
My name is Natalie Davitt although I’m usually called Nat/Nat’s. I can’t actually remember the last time someone used my full name unless I’m doing something wrong in a drill or match! I’m originally from Gormanstown but moved to Drogheda when I was 8! I’m the youngest of 5 and am the ‘baby’ of the family! I’m 22 years old and currently studying at UCD!
It probably sounds very cliché, but I suppose I always had a love for sport or of being active in some way. I do think that my love for sport came from my Mam encouraging (and sometimes forcing) us to get involved in various teams and activities. I always remember my brother being a very talented soccer player and hearing him talk about his matches etc. My Mam would also take the 5 of us (3 sisters and a brother) to swimming weekly and I was involved in ‘hip-hop’ classes too.
My dad passed away when I was a baby, he was an avid boxer and represented Ireland in the Olympic games in Moscow in 1980. Naturally he was regularly spoken about when I was growing up. That definitely had an influence on my feelings towards sport!
(Natalie’s Dad, PJ Davitt – third from left and above right. PJ’s nickname was ‘Rabbit’ as he was so fast)
When did the love affair with Gaelic Football start?
I think I started playing Gaelic football when I was around 9 or 10 when I realised that hip-hop dancing and myself weren’t overly compatible. I remember being part of the Soccer and Gaelic teams in primary school and one day decided that I would give it a go and join a club. From there my love for sports grew, particularly GAA. I played on any team I could in secondary school. Coming from Meath I support anyone who isn’t Dublin, haha! Aw no in fairness, I do support Meath but with a lot of my dad’s relatives coming from Co. Mayo (including my granny and grandad) I’d support them too, along with Donegal. My step-dad is from Malinhead so that’s rubbed off on me too, travelling around to see them play – so it probably really is anyone but the Dubs!
From the age of 8/9 to about 12/13 I was actually a member of The Pat’s because I used to live out that direction. It was grand when I was in primary school but when I went to secondary school I was the only one off my team who went to Colaiste na hInse as most of the other girls went to Loretto in Balbriggan so I guess I just drifted from the girls I used to play with. As Colaiste na hInse was so close to Colmcilles and the fact that the majority of my new friends had some association with the club so I decided to move to ‘The Cilles’ and haven’t looked back since.
Have you any sporting heroes?
Some of my favourite sports stars would be Bríege Corkery, Michael Murphy, Messi (obviously) and Phillip Lahm. I think they’re all exceptional at what they do, time and time again. To be a stand out player like them almost every time they step onto a pitch is in itself an unreal achievement but to do it with all the potential criticism from the media etc is something else. I think the one thing I admire most is their mental strength.
The same mental attitude is shown just as much throughout our ladies team. Personally, looking at the girls on the team who have had serious injuries from torn ligaments, broken bones, sprains, fractures etc, they come back more determined than ever – it’s incredible, particularly after doing their cruciate ligaments! You just have to look at the likes of Cliona Smith, Dearbhail, Tara McHugh, Niamh Doggett, Danielle Sweeney etc who came back giving 1000% effort all the time whether on the pitch, in the gym or in rehab. Watching them after going through something so physically and mentally draining is amazing. I really look up to them for that!
Any sporting honours to date?
I’ve won some underage medals like u16’4 division 3 and 4 leagues. Then runner up with Minor division 3 and runner up division 3 with the ladies’ team as well as Junior A Championship medal! I’ve also represented Meath and the u17’s and have an all-Ireland shield 333medal with the county u21’s. I also won player’s player of the year in 2018, and player of the year 2015 awards for the cilles ladies team and then some school awards too!
Has anyone in the club ever affected you positively or have you affected anyone positively?
I think everyone who plays, coaches, mentors, helps out in the club all have a positive impact on the running of Cilles and it’s continuous growth. Personally, I think that at times, it’s easy to forget that there is life outside of football and that people have their own battles in their personal lives that not everyone would know about. It’s important to be kind and attentive to one another. Whether it be just a friendly hello or smile, meeting up for a coffee, going down with a few of the people on your team etc half an hour before training for a chat or kick about, driving together to a match, standing with people when you’re watching a match etc.
These things may seem like only small gestures, but they go a long way to building friendships, morale and the positive impact that it could have for someone. Personally, I would have more of an insight to the senior side of the club and seeing players and the management on both the men’s and women’s team’s balance college, working full-time, changing things around so that they can make a match/training, doing PHD’s, with football is astonishing. It really gives me a perspective to give my all at training and in matches knowing that those around you have given up their time to be there with you.
How do you feel about how ladies football has evolved over the years? (What has changed for good reasons)
I think maybe in the last year or so ladies football has really sprung up development wise. Lidl coming on board and the introduction of the 20 x 20 campaign has really helped this. I think that girls in sport are finally getting the recognition we deserve to be honest, and we are now being treated as equals with the lads – it only took 50/60 odd years! It’s small things like having both county teams playing on the same day in the same venue across the country or putting the same emphasis on the girls club matches as the mens. Although there is a lot more than could be done to boost ladies football I do think that its moving in the right direction. At St Colmcilles there are at least two ladies teams at every age group and here’s hoping that will increase.
You play a significant role in the ladies team, describe your experience to date
Haha I don’t know about that! Ah no, all joking aside I love playing on the ladies team. I think it is just something you get used to because you start at such a young age it just feels second nature at this point. It can be quite scary at first, I remember coming up when I was 15 and barely speaking at training or in the dressing room and now I never shut up! At underage levels you get used to who you’re playing with and at max there would only be a year in age difference whereas when you first make the step up there could be 6/7/8 years in the difference so it can be quite daunting. But as I said once you get used to it, you’re grand! It’s exciting learning new drills, tactics, seeing how other people play, watching the different style of football you might be used to and establishing new friendships with the players.
I suppose my experience to date has been a mixture of up’s and down’s! My first year playing up I remember going directly from under 16’s training with Ciara Daly, Dawn O’Reilly and Megan Dunne directly to ladies training. It was Sweens’ dad Niall who was the coach at the time and there’d be about 6/7 of us at training on a good day but training was still intense and everyone was still giving 100%. It was a good introduction to the ladies team and because there were so little of us we all had to get on I suppose, aw no it was good fun. Obviously we only went from strength to strength then in the years to come and in 2014 I think it was, I played in my first ever championship semi-final against Dee Rangers. Even though we didn’t win we took a lot from that game as players and went on to the get into the semi’s the following year against Dunboyne before finally getting to take the cup home in 2016 beating Dunsany.
I honestly don’t think you can put into words the feeling of winning a championship with your teammates, it honestly is incredible! The work rate that the girls and management put into this team is extraordinary. It sounds so cringey but we honestly are like each-others second family. I’ve met friends and made memories for life through this team and I’m only playing on it 6 or so years so!
Tell us a little about what sport has done for you over the years
You always read about people saying how sport has changed their lives etc. and maybe sometimes you think ah sure they might just be saying that but for any person who does play a sport I think you really can understand the meaning behind what their talking about and how sport really does change and shape your life. I’ve met the majority of my closest friends through playing football who I maybe otherwise would not have gotten the chance to meet. There’s no better feeling than going out on the pitch with your teammates who have put in the same number of hours on the field and in the gym as yourself all wanting to achieve the same goal. Winning the Junior A Championship was one of the happiest moments I have to date. Sport can be used as an escape route in a way too if you’re feeling stressed or down or that and just need to clear your head. It’s not all serious either, it does be good craic at training, especially coming back every January not for the (pre-season training) but catching up with everyone you mightn’t have seen as much as you did during the year when you’re training three times a week! Not to mention getting to work on the champo tan! No but seriously it is a good laugh and the nights out are even better!
Are things going in the right direction for the club, will younger girls follow your lead and play to the same level?
Having at least two teams at every age group in the ladies club speaks volumes in terms of the amount of younger players coming through. There’s a great underage infrastructure so it provides great opportunities for younger girls to continue playing. I think years ago many girls weren’t given the same chances as boys as they just weren’t available and had to play on the same teams as the boys etc but nowadays they have their own teams / coaches etc. The club are doing great things in providing these changes for younger girls and it’s great to see. There are girls fighting for positions at every level in the club so it makes training more intense which will only help each player. I think having different teams at the same age at different levels (leagues and championships) really allows players to develop at their own rate and not have to develop at the rate of the team if that makes sense. I think this is so important as girls can play at a level they feel comfortable at and enjoy most of all, because if you aren’t enjoying it there isn’t a point really!
In the club whom do you look up to specifically?
Because our club is so big I honestly could think of loads of people who I really look up to.. There’s just so many supporters, volunteers, coaches, players, caretakers etc. that all help with the running of the club and make it what it is, so it’s hard to think of a select few. Obviously you’ve the likes of James Kelly, Ciara Lalor, Jackser, Sam, Keith Loughman, Pat Haigney, Pat Kelly who are literally the backbone of the club from selling lotto tickets to organising pitches all that stuff so that’s really nice to see how much they give to the club and their passion for it too.
Another big one for me would be Edel Flynn, just seeing her down at every single game whether it’s in the rain, the hail, or the snow she’s always there supporting the Cilles. It’s really admirable to see her love for and dedication to the club. Ann Byrne would be another driving force in the club and has been for so many years. Seeing someone so dedicated not to just the ladies side but to the sport in general is unreal! Ann was obviously such a leader and influential player and her experience after having played on so many teams really helped us as a team to develop. I think all the coaches, background teams, the committee members, the parents who bring the players to the games, just anyone who helps a team out in anyway all have a significant role in the club and I’ve huge respect for them all. (So basically everyone then)
How would you sell St Colmcilles to people not in the club? Why would someone volunteer to assist the Cilles?
It’s a really family orientated club in the way that everyone knows everyone. It has a personal touch to it and just really emphasises the love for the game, along with the enjoyment people get from the game. There is a really friendly environment around the club so it’s really nice to be part of a club where you can have conversations with people from different teams or different areas of the and not just stick to the area or team you know. There’s a very supportive community within the club, one which helps out each-other out and welcomes anyone to it and there is literally something or everyone! From ages 4 to 40+! There’s no better feeling than having the craic with your friends through sport. Even if you didn’t want to play the sport there are many different areas you can get involved in whether it be helping out a team, organising events, helping out at events, supporting the club, going to games etc. I think all the supporters, volunteers etc are just as important and play a big role too. I would highly recommend anyone to get involved with the club because it really is a nice place to be a part of.
Do you have any sporting mantra’s or motivational quotes you use to improve or focus?
When things aren’t going my way I really try and focus on my next run, the next ball, the next pass and try to just get rid of any negative thoughts or feelings I might be having. To be fair, sometimes it’s easier said than done and that’s when the support of your teammates really comes into play. Sure it’s the same in life not just sport. There’s always going to be times when things aren’t going your way or if you’re feeling down and stuff and that’s when the support of those around you or someone you can speak to really helps and can give you that little extra bit of support or guidance.
Sometimes we forget that a problem shared is a problem halved so I think it’s really important for people to remember that there is no shame in talking about something – especially off the pitch because it mightn’t be as easy as on it!
Words: Natalie Davitt
Photographs & Interview: Brian Mulligan
Lighting Assistant: Ruby Mulligan
Comrades on the photo shoot: Anna Rothwell & Ciara Daly (some expert ball throwing skills)
Please support players like Natalie by supporting our car draw and see our club develop into the club it is destined to be. Not one cent raised from the car draw will be used to support the day to day running of the club, instead it will be used to develop the club improve it from within. Tickets are very reasonably priced at €10 and can be purchased from any club member or from out dedicated website at www.winacarforatenner.com