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Friday 08 Mar 2024
Female football leaders celebrated

A new female football leaders network is being set up in Northern Ireland by the Irish Football Association, it has emerged on International Women’s Day (8 March).

The establishment of the network was revealed at a celebratory event at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

The event celebrated 10 years of the Female Football Leadership Programme, which is sponsored by Electric Ireland.

There have been 143 graduates since the Electric Ireland backed programme started a decade ago.

The Irish FA’s Director of Women's Football, Angela Platt, said: “It was inspiring to see so many graduates of the Electric Ireland Female Football Leadership Programme attend the event at the stadium and to hear first hand how the programme has impacted them so positively on their journey so far. 

“It was a superb evening of engagement that provided the opportunity to celebrate 10 years of the programme and create a new network to connect the graduates with each other to share knowledge and learning. 

“It was also great to hear their views to help shape the future direction of our leadership development programmes within football.”

Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood welcomed the female leaders to the stadium.

He acknowledged their achievements and highlighted the importance of developing female leadership within the sport to positively impact communities.

The event featured a Q&A hosted by radio presenter Denise Watson, a long time supporter of women’s football in Northern Ireland.

Special guests included Natalie Thompson (Belfast Met), Rachel Rodgers (33 Activities) and Patricia McCullough (Irish FA Council member).

They all provided insights into their journeys as female leaders and how other participants on the leadership programme had been a big support as they progressed through roles.

There was also a feedback session for attendees aimed at helping to shape and develop future courses.

Those attending shared engagement and support ideas on how to maximise the power of the new female football leaders network.

A special recognition award was presented to Joanne Patterson of Damolly FC in Newry.

Joanne received the Inspirational Impact Award for outstanding leadership and dedication. 

The mother-of-two first came on to the Irish FA’s radar when she brought her girls, Zoe and Mia, to an Electric Ireland Shooting Stars centre in Newry in 2019.

Since then she has dedicated herself to promoting inclusivity in the Newry, Mourne and Down area.

Joanne coaches girls’ teams and provides mentoring to young female leaders at her club and also plays for the Damolly Women social team which she helped to set up.

In addition she has launched an initiative called Health Kicks which provides a platform to focus on the mental and physical health of teenage girls in the Newry area.

Charity fundraising and supporting the Northern Ireland senior women’s team are also key components of her busy schedule.

And earlier this week she hosted an event focusing on mental wellbeing for women in her area – to mark International Women’s Day.

Joanne is the first person to receive the Inspirational Impact Award and Lauren Moore, Women’s Football Development Manager at the Irish FA Foundation, said she was “a very worthy recipient”.