TALENTED young Donegal footballer Catherine Grier is hoping the world will hear a lot more of the Republic of Ireland deaf football team on the international stage this year.
From Aughnish, Ramelton, Grier (16) travelled to Holland in January to represent the Republic of Ireland at the Deaf Women’s Futsal European Championship Qualifiers. Later that same month she was selected to play for Doncaster Deaf Football club in the deaf Champions league tournament in Alcala de Henares in Spain.
“It’s been a great start to the year. I’ve been so lucky,” Grier said. A fifth year student at Mulroy College, the midfielder is part of the Ulster Squad for the Deaf Interprovincials at the end of March, and she will also line out for Doncaster in the British Deaf Cup in May. While requiring all the skills of indoor 5-a-side, Futsal takes a slightly different format with different size ball, goals and pitch size. As the only Donegal player in the team, Catherine helped Ireland qualify for their first ever European Championships. Dave Bell’s side played a total of four matches in Amsterdam. They drew with the hosts 3-3 in their opening match, a game in which Catherine was awarded Player of the Match. They then suffered two defeats in a row to Germany and Denmark before beating Italy 6-2 to reach the 2018 European Championships to be held in December in Tampere, Finland.
As well as national futsal selection, Grier has also made inroads in her 11-a-side goal of playing for Ireland. Diagnosed as being profoundly deaf as a child, Catherine wears digital hearing aids to assist with his communication. While a lip reader for a large part of her daily life, Catherine admitted that being deaf was at times challenging when playing club football with Swilly Rovers and Loreto Milford.
“Playing for a hearing team is not easy when you can not hear your own team-mates communicate with you during the game, which also makes the Irish Deaf team events great as everyone’s equal. Everyone’s deaf and same rules, same opportunities. That said, football is a universal language,” she smiled.
Currently training with Lagan Harps, Catherine volunteers at Ballyare on Sundays, helping Brid McGinty and Johnny Baird with the younger Donegal squads.
Catherine’s mother Monica (nee Grier), who was a talented footballer in her youth, is part of the Doncaster backroom team. Her father Alastair is a local farmer. She has two brothers Adam and Andrew while two of her biggest supporters would be her grandparents Pearl and Ivan.
It was a social media post which first piqued her interest in the Republic of Ireland deaf football team.
“Mum saw an ad on Facebook looking for deaf girls to attend a football trial in Dublin and I went along for the craic. The first day was amazing and the coaching from the Irish manager David Bell was brilliant,” she recalled.
“As part of the rules we have to take out our hearing aids before the start of a game and the only way we can communicate is through sign language which I don’t really have. Most of the time I just guess and go with the flow,” she laughed.
While Catherine was away in Spain playing with Doncaster she missed out on Mulroy retaining their All Ireland Schools title.
“I was delighted for the girls. I missed last year’s final due to a knee injury and now I missed this year too. Hopefully they’ll get back to the final again next year and I’ll finally get the chance to play,” she said.
Due to sit her Leaving Certificate exams in the summer of 2019, Catherine hopes to attend Ballyhaise Agricultural College.
“I want to be a farmer. Hopefully dad will then give me a job. Farming would also free up my time if I want to continue playing football,” she said.
With Milford’s Amber Barrett, St Johnston’s Tyler Toland, Amy Boyle Carr (Glenties) and Roma McLaughlin (Greencastle) all members of the Republic of Ireland ladies senior squad Catherine would ultimately like to follow their lead.
“The Donegal Women’s League are putting an U17 team together for the National Cup and I’m training with Lagan Harps at the minute. It would be a dream come true to play for Ireland,” she said.
Catherine is a member of the Donegal Gaynor Cup Squad together with the Ulster Schools Inter-pro squad.
“When I was young I was always playing football in the garden. My granddad (Ivan) and uncle George (the former Harps and Fanad winger) inspired me,” she smiled.
Having travelled to both Holland and Spain during January, Catherine is looking forward to seeing some more of the world.
“Doncaster are hoping to go to next year’s finals which will be held in Germany in January but I’ll have to keep and eye on the Leaving Cert too. I’m really enjoying the football and getting the opportunity to meet girls from other parts of the country. It’s great craic,” she said.
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