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Marino AFC Girls Soccer Academy

Meet Catherine, Paul and the lovely Layla, founders of the Marino AFC Girls Soccer Academy. 9 years ago, they felt it was important to get their daughter Ava involved in a sport and sought to see if there was a girl’s football academy in the area. They realised there wasn’t one but a few other parents had the same idea for their girls so Paul offered to start coaching them. He started coaching 3 little girls and within a few months, there were 16 girls. This quickly developed into a football team and the girls started to compete. It wasn’t long before other parents were reaching out and asking if they would provide older teams as well.

They now have Ciaran Duffy who coaches the under 11s team and Connor Wakely and Gavin Copeland, who coach the under 13s team. In 9 years, what was initially a kind gesture to get girls into sport has flourished into a fully organised Football Academy that has over 60 girls.

For The Flynns, football is their life. They spend every spare moment investing in the Marino AFC Soccer Academy. They have watched little girls start out with just a mere joy to kick a ball around and grow into excellent footballers who are now competing around the country. Their goal for the girls is the development of the team as a collective; that is making great friends, respecting each other and instilling in them a family bond. Their daughter Ava, who is an only child, speaks of her team members as her football sisters.

During their many excursions, the last being a trip to Liverpool, Catherine and Joe make sure that the girls are taught life skills whilst under their supervision such as budgets, cleaning, cooking and how to handle themselves in a mature manner. All of the excursions are funded mainly through fundraising where parents and children all get involved to do whatever they can to raise funds such as 80’s nights in the local pub, cakes sales etc.

Aside from many other duties, Catherine has a very important role of being the Academy ‘Mammy’. She is with the girls all the time, looking after their needs and being there for them during more sensitive aspects of a young girl’s development.

When they are not training, going to matches or travelling for excursions, they still hang out together, going to the cinema and doing other friendly activities which indicate how close they have become through the Academy. This really resonated with me as I reflect back on my own childhood. I was very lucky to have a sport and a team atmosphere instilled in me from a very young age. I actually didn’t realise that the positive impact had very little to do with the actual sport!

Layla, a rescue dog, has been there ever since day one when she was a puppy. She is their mascot dog and is doted on constantly by all the girls. She loves to watch them play and is always there for a big cuddle.

I sat in their lovely home, patting Layla on her head, just in awe of these two. Their enthusiasm and love for what they have created and do is truly inspiring. They had no idea what would evolve 9 years ago. It just goes to show, if you are passionate about something and love what you are doing, only good things will come from it.

The Tuesday Club

Anne Forde, together with many of the volunteers you see in this photograph, developed the idea for The Tuesday Club about 10 years ago. They realised that there was a large part of the community that were 70 years of age or over, were living alone, and it had become more difficult for them to move around the area. This made it hard for them to maintain an active social life. I think this aspect of our lives is something that we really take for granted when we are younger as we are so busy with work, children and life in general that we don’t realise that when you get older, meeting your friends and making new friends is fundamental to your mental state of mind and wellbeing.

After much planning, The Tuesday Club officially began. Every Tuesday the members of the club are collected by 8-9 volunteers and taken to the Charlton Hall for an afternoon of numerous activities.

(from left to right, the names are Anne Forde, Maria Cantwell, Valerie Mulligan, Sr Margaret Ivers, Adrienne Glover, Peggy Bergin, Lily Smith, Ann Ryder and Marion Boyle. These are just some of the 30 or so volunteers who help run the Tuesday club.

The day usually starts with a 30-minute catch-up between friends, some old, some new (although by now, they have all made friends through The Tuesday Club). The members then start their 40-minute chair exercises hosted by instructors, Nevrig, Colm, Shane and Seán. This is an activity that the members very much look forward to each week.

Afterwards the group get a well-deserved tea and an assortment of home-baked cakes supplied by volunteers such as Valerie and trainees from Prospect Fingal. Fairy Buns, Fruit Cakes and Lemon Drizzle (a house favourite) are just a few of the beautiful cakes on display each week. The ladies tell me how important this is for most of the members as they were bakers themselves and look forward to a homely sweet treat.

Bingo is an absolute must at The Tuesday Club where things become quite competitive as well as highly enjoyable.  Jim, the volunteer pianist, and Marian usually get everyone into a singalong which brings the crowd back to times past and happy memories. I am told that the atmosphere is joyful and everyone gets involved.

Additionally, each week, there are different volunteers that mix things up a bit such as Ukulele bands, singers, guest speakers and arts and crafts workshops. One of the committee members Anne even did her own piece once on the history of the different stores in Fairview. A thoroughly researched endeavour that brought the members back to a time in their lives that might have been forgotten.

The Tuesday Club now has a healthy number of 40 members each week, 25% of which are men. They have been lucky enough to get small grants from Dublin City Council and Croke Park Community Fund to keep things going and occasionally take the group on outings. Aside from that the whole initiative is voluntary based.

They are always looking for new volunteers so if you would like to become a member contact Anne Forde at the email below. I am sure she would love to hear from you. Aside from contributing to something very special here this is a fabulous way to meet new people and carry on the Fairview tradition of voluntary work. To find out more about them, click here.

The Mud Island Community

Nestled behind the houses just off the North Strand lies a beautiful oasis of trees, flowers and herbs. A garden created by the people, for the people of the area, is a hidden gem in Dublin 3.

Before the community garden, there was housing for the elderly. It was then knocked down to create social housing. The Larkin Unemployment Centre had plans to create a family childcare centre. The economic crash came before plans went underway and unfortunately the area was left derelict. The land then became used as a dump.

Fionnuala Halpin, the now chairperson of the Gardens, lived right next to the land dump and felt there needed to be something done about it. She had asked Tony Gregory, the then TD, to help her in removing it as a dump and use the space for something more constructive to the area.  Tony Louth, another local in the community, called a meeting and sought out if people would be interested in making compost and growing their own plants and vegetables. There was already a keen interest for that to happen in this specific location. The idea then flourished for The Mud Island Community Garden.

Fionnuala, John Hannigan and Maeve Foreman were the first three signatories to start the plans for the garden. From 2009 until 2011, they fought to use the land for the community garden. Finally, the three became licensees of the area and that is where it all began. They then started to apply for grants to help fund the development of the garden. Luckily, at the time, the Community Foundation of Ireland had just started creating a fund for community gardens and became their main funder for the first couple of years. The generosity, time and energy given by the volunteers have made the Garden what it is today. It has been a slow and steady effort by everyone involved and from what I can gather a family of close friends has evolved from this magnanimous creation.

If there are no plans to develop in the near future there are hopes that they can have electricity and water provided for the site which will be extremely helpful when running events. Each person that gets involved has something valuable to contribute towards the growing and development of the gardens. The ethos is to give people a shared sense of ownership to the Mud Island Community Gardens.

How to become a member of the Mud Island Community Garden? If you are employed, it is €10 a year and €5 a year for the unemployed. You can take part as much or as little as you like. You can come and enjoy social events or really get stuck into the gardening aspect of things. Either way, I feel this is just a wonderful way to integrate with the community, make long-lasting friends and help to contribute to something special.

These Faces of Fairview (North Strand to be more correct!)

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