'I think whenever a new management team comes in, it's a new challenge'

March 23, 2024

Mayo's Lisa Cafferky takes a shot at goal

By Daire Walsh  

Since moving back to these shores after a significant stint overseas, Mayo footballer Lisa Cafferky has been playing a major role in the development of young sportspeople across a range of different disciplines at one of Ireland’s leading third-level institutions. 

Following a six-year spell in England — during which time she featured in two TG4 All-Ireland Junior Football Championship semi-finals in the colours of London — Cafferky took up a role as a Student Sport Pathway Manager at Trinity College Dublin in 2019. 

Having worked in a number of sports development roles during her time in the English capital, this was always going to be a position that appealed to the Kilmovee club woman. She also worked as an Urban Programme Officer and National Development Officer with the LGFA before moving to London in 2013 and with so many different sporting activities taking place in the college, Cafferky is currently loving life in Trinity. 

“We have 49 different sports clubs in Trinity and I know when I first moved over, I probably couldn’t have named 49 different sports clubs! It’s fantastic, the range of activities that we have in Trinity and there really is something for everyone. We’ve currently 55% of the student population that are active and engaged in our sports programmes,” Cafferky said. 

“I think it is really important that there is an offer out there for every student. There’s all your traditional sports, but then adventure sports are particularly increasing in popularity over the last while. I think it has shown me the importance of providing a range of different opportunities and not just your standard, traditional sports.” 

Indeed, the LGFA wasn’t always the sole sporting pursuit for Cafferky as she was part of the Kiltimagh/Knock United side that defeated Aisling Annacotty of Limerick in a WFAI Intermediate Cup decider held at Turner’s Cross in late August 2007. Interestingly, she was joined in the starting line-up for that game by Mayo team-mates Yvonne Byrne, Fiona McHale and Cora Staunton — the latter grabbing all of Kiltimagh/Knock’s goals in an emphatic 4-0 victory. 

Yet Gaelic football was always her greatest passion and 2007 was a very big year in the sport for Cafferky. Her debut season as a senior inter-county star, Cafferky scored a goal from right corner-forward in Mayo’s Lidl National Football League Division 1 final success over Galway, before she also raised a green flag against the same side in a subsequent Connacht Championship decider. 

She also came off the bench for Mayo in their TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship showpiece loss to Cork on September 23, 2007 at Croke Park and even though the result didn’t go the way of her side, Cafferky still puts it down as a memorable experience. 

“I’m probably really lucky that I came in and we got all the way to the All-Ireland final that year. Unfortunately I just haven’t managed to get back there since. I think that shows you a lot as well. Going in as a teenager, you maybe expect that that happens every year, but we’re just really striving to get back there. 

“We’d a super team back then and I learnt an awful lot from the girls, and the type of leaders that we had on that team at that time as well. Myself, Fiona McHale and Kathryn Sullivan are still around from that time, but it was a brilliant experience.” 

Mayo last reached the Brendan Martin Cup final in 2017 when Cafferky was still based in London, but have been very close to getting back to that stage in more recent times. 

Having made a substitute appearance in their agonising All-Ireland SFC semi-final defeat to Galway in 2019, Cafferky started alongside her sister Sinead as Mayo also reached the last-four of the ladies football top-tier in each of the past three years under the management of Michael Moyles. 

However, the Crossmolina man opted to step aside in the wake of their third consecutive penultimate round exit last summer and it is Liam McHale who took over the reins for the 2024 season. 

Vastly-experienced as a player and a coach within the men’s game, McHale currently has Mayo occupying fifth spot in Division 1 of the Lidl National Football League ahead of their clash with Waterford at Ballina Stephenites tomorrow afternoon – when a positive result would ensure that the Connacht outfit retain their top-flight NFL status for another year at least. 

“It has been fantastic. I think whenever a new management team comes in, it’s a new challenge and a new opportunity. Liam has fantastic experience, both on the basketball court, but also as a huge star from Mayo. I remember watching him in the ’96 All-Ireland against Meath,” Cafferky remarked of McHale. 

“Definitely he is someone I would have looked up to as a player, but he has brought a brilliant perspective to the game. He’s got a really strong management team with him as well. He’s definitely a really positive character and he wants to play a positive brand of football as well. Which is something I think that, as Mayo people, we like to see.” 

Another player that Cafferky looked up to was her former Mayo colleague Diane O’Hora, who is currently making waves as manager of the Kildare senior team. A member of the Mayo side that lost out to Cork in the 2007 All-Ireland SFC showpiece, O’Hora guided the Lilywhites to three pieces of silverware in 2023, including the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship. 

They subsequently secured promotion to the top grade of the NFL with two rounds to spare in their 2024 Division 2 campaign and with both their sides in this year’s All-Ireland SFC series, there is every chance that Cafferky and O’Hora could have a renewal of acquaintances later on in the summer. 

“I played with Diane when I started, going back to 2007. I was playing alongside Diane and she certainly showed me a few tricks of the trade in terms of corner-forward movements and that,” Cafferky added. 

“She’s really driven and passionate, and I think she’s doing an excellent job there with Kildare. If we do happen to come up against her, we’ll just put the friendship to a side and go at it. We all want to win and Diane will be no different to us in terms of wanting to get the upper hand.” 

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