Greencastle woman Niamh McLaughlin is no stranger to sporting success. Having played GAA for Donegal and football for Ireland, it is no surprise that McLaughlin continued this success at Northumbia University, Newcastle.
The talented footballer captained the futsal team which won their third consecutive BUCS (British University and College Sport) Futsal championship last week.
After pulling of an impressive comeback, Northumbia University defeated Durham University 4-3. Northumbia took the lead one minute into the game but the lead was short lived as Durham made it 2-1 before half time. Durham started the brightest in the opening of the second half and increased their lead to 3-1. Determined to win, McLaughlin scored her first of the game, making it 3-2. Down to the last minutes, Northumbia were still 3-2 down, when McLaughlin won a penalty, which was saved by the keeper, but the Donegal woman converted the rebound, levelling the game.
“When we pulled it back to a draw, we were all ecstatic and the momentum was with us. We had all the possession and you could tell Durham was starting to feel the pressure. We kept the ball and passed it around until we got a ball across the net to the back post were Megan was there to put it in the net with 40 seconds on the clock. It was such an amazing feeling as we had quite a few supporters on the sideline and it is three consecutive years now we have been national champions. My parents also flew over and surprised me a few hours before the game so I was speechless when I seen them so thank god we won!” said McLaughlin.
Physiotherapy student McLaughlin was playing football for the university when she began to take part in futsal despite having never played the sport before. Now three years on, she captained the team to victory.
“When I first came to university I had never even heard of futsal, but one of the third years at the time kept asking most of the football girls to come and join! We were quite lucky that a group of us had came to the university at the same time who decent enough footballers. At the start we were just footballers playing futsal, but now we are definitely a futsal team. It is a lot faster and skilful, meaning you have to think really quickly on the pitch, so it has benefited me when I got back to playing football and I absolutely love it. Also to win the cup three years in-a-row is really amazing, a lot of girls are leaving this year so it was a fitting way to end our three years.”
Not only has McLaughlin been an asset to the university’s sports teams as a player, she volunteers as a physio, a coach and takes part in fundraising. All of these contributions to the university, along with her sporting talent, contributed to McLaughlin being named Northumbia University’s Sports Personality of the Year.
“To have been nominated was obviously a great honour and I wasn’t expecting it all. This year I have done a lot of volunteering through programmes set up by the university in which I volunteer as a physio with the men’s football team, attending clinics and match days with them. I also volunteer as a futsal coach with club Northumbria which tries to encourage girls to come and learn to play futsal for fun or to improve.
“I always try and get to any fundraising events and always go out and support the other teams. I was privileged to be the captain of the futsal team this year. My sporting career here has been great but it would not have been possible without all the other players, my coaches and the people I have met through my time here so I am very grateful for them.”