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‘I’d love to give Australia another crack…’

FERMANAGH GAA star Joanne Doonan made history back in September after becoming the first ever Irish-born player to sign for Aussie rules side Carlton Blues. 
From there, the 25-year-old flew to Australia in October to pursue a semi-professional career in the AFL women’s league that would indefinitely see her change the mindset and opportunities of local athletes for generations to come. 
While caught up in a whirlwind of footie fans, debuts and victories, the Kinawley native could not have predicted that a global pandemic would put an end to her dream, landing her back in Fermanagh far sooner than expected.
“It was a brilliant experience overall. Looking back I was definitely nervous and unsure if I’d made the right decision but I’ve learned a lot in the short time I was away. My debut was definitely one of the biggest highlights, just to experience how big of an occasion it is over there and all the support from home was great.”
While Joanne has been no stranger to pressure, she admitted; “Once the news broke that I’d be heading out I was overwhelmed with the amount of people writing to me and showing their support. It did cross my mind that people had high expectations for me but you can’t go about life worrying about what people will think. 
“I obviously wanted to make people proud but the people I care about will always support me so that’s all that mattered. I feel I tried to just enjoy my experience, reminding myself to be grateful to have it. Obviously there were times when it was tough, as with all sport, I felt myself caring about things outside my control. I’ve learned not to be afraid to fail and focus on what I can control.” 
Speaking on what she learned most from the experience, she said, “I found I nearly went in as if ‘I shouldn’t know this I’m only new’ when I should have been more confident in my own ability.
“It’s tough on the mental side to try to balance learning everything and competing against girls who have played their whole life but you can’t put too much pressure on yourself. 
“I think I’ve learned how worrying about things out of my control is only a distraction. It’s very easy to say that but I’ve practised it a lot more now.”
Joanne continued , “We don’t know much about next year, even if we wanted to would we actually be able to fly out to Australia. So it’s all a bit up in the air. Personally I’d like to give it another crack if I could but we’ll just try get through this crisis safely is the main priority.”
While her future at the AFLW remains uncertain, Joanne counts herself “lucky” to be sending time over lockdown with those she missed most from the other side of the world; “We never would have been able to spend this amount of time together,” she explained. 
“My brother and his girlfriend stayed in Sydney so it was just me and my parents at home. Thankfully we’d a project of building the garage that kept us busy through lockdown. I feel it’s very easy to get carried away with life without even realising you miss it, now that they’re back to work I’m missing them about.”
Going from such a high in Australia to being back at home and straight into lockdown could have been cause for the always-active sports star to dip into a low, however the 25-year-old quickly got back into the swing of things ; “There’s definitely days I’ve very little motivation. I’m lucky to have a programme to follow, but I think especially in these times it’s best to not compare yourself with other people. “What I found helped me was just getting out and going for a walk, and it could be literally just down the road, but I found I felt a lot better mentally to get out in nature and away from my phone and the TV. Usually when I did this I felt more motivated and ended up doing my gym that I didn’t want to do before that, other days I didn’t, and that’s ok too.”
Offering advice to others who may be struggling, Joanne said, “A good routine might help especially if you’re not working, and just get the walk over with in the morning, it will set you up for the day. 
“Know that it’s only your mind telling you what you’re doing is ‘bad’ or ‘not enough’, just remind yourself that you’re in control of your mind and what your doing is enough.”
 

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA