Múinteoirí a Spreagann Éire 2022
4 eileen curtin o neill edited

2021 Stories

Make new things happenRecovering from life changing challenges

She taught me that life doesn't always work the way you plan, and it's not always easy, and sometimes you need to pick yourself up and make new things happen.

At 17 and in her Leaving Cert year, Elaine thought her lifelong dream of playing football in America was about to come true.

She had represented Ireland at under 15 and under 17 and her club team were top of the league.

Elaine also played for her school - Sacred Heart Secondary, Drogheda, county Louth.

“I had been scouted in 4th year when I played in a tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

“This was the only dream I had, I kid you not. Anybody that knew me knew that my only dream was to play football in America and be professional,” she said from her now home in Auckland, New Zealand.

Elaine, who played at right full-back, took a month off soccer to prepare for and sit her Leaving Certificate and in her first game back she suffered an injury that changed the course of her life.

After a tackle she landed awkwardly, her foot stuck in the ground while her body twisted, and she said, “I could hear snaps.”

She was told she had torn a series of ligaments including her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).

She will never forget a doctor saying, “you’ll have to hang up your boots, you'll never be playing again.”

At the time she said it was the equivalent of a career-ending injury although now players can make a full recovery after surgery.

“I was gutted, I could still have gone to America but could not face sitting on the bench there, the whole point was to get on a pitch and play and also get my degree there.”

Her French teacher, who also coached her in school soccer, was Brid Fox. She wrote Elaine a letter that had a huge impact on her.

“She put the letter in the door of my home. I always liked French and she wrote the start of the letter in French. She said that life doesn't often pan out the way you want it to be.”

She put a cut out picture of Elaine’s idol David Beckham in the envelope and said, “if her letter didn't cheer me up, at least the picture would. She also encouraged me to come back to school and reapply to Irish universities the following year which ended up changing the course of my life.”

With the inspiration and support of Brid Fox, and her school, Elaine sat her Leaving Certificate for a second time and decided to study French, German and Business Studies in DCU.

Now working in the insurance industry in New Zealand, she did not hesitate to nominate Brid for Teachers Inspire.

“She taught me that life doesn't always work the way you plan, and it's not always easy, and sometimes you need to pick yourself up and make new things happen. Now that I'm 32, in a new life altogether, I always look back and think of what an effort she made for a student and how much it meant to me as a 17 year old whose dreams had been shattered. By going the extra mile for someone can really have a positive