Aisling McCarthy is something of a homegrown legend and is on the road to becoming the same in the South Pacific. Beginning her sporting career playing GAA for Tipperary, Aisling's interest in AFL was piqued in 2015, and eventually joined the CrossCoders programme where she was fully immersed in the sport for a week-long training introduction.
In 2018, she was drafted in to play Aussie Rules for AFL team the Western Bulldogs, based in Melbourne. But since the 2020 sporting season has had the brakes somewhat pulled, Aisling returned home to Ireland to take up her professional position as a physiotherapist Aisling signed up for the 'On Call for Ireland' initiative and took up a contract in Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.
As the world began to slowly reopen, Aisling started looking back to her involvement in sport and will return to Australia and the AFL in November, this time playing for Perth team the West Coast Eagles.
We spoke to Aisling to find out more about what makes her tick, and she's popped in some of her top tips for staying active, just for you!
Who are your heroes?
As well as everything my parents have done for me to enable me to achieve everything I have in my personal, sporting and professional life, the people that are my heroes are probably my grandparents. Iʼm lucky to have all 4 of them, they try to make it to as many of my games as they can and itʼs always a special moment meeting them after games.
A local sporting hero of mine that I wouldʼve looked up to was Tipperary ladies footballer, Angie McDermott. She played for the Tipperary Senior team when I was younger, and the respect she gained as a footballer around the county was a testament to her ability. She was part of the 2008 all Ireland winning team. I was lucky to be selected to play at half time in mini games at that 2008 All-Ireland. I was 12 years old at the time and all I wanted to do was be like those girls and play for Tipperary when I was older. A few years later, I was lining up with my club Cahir to play against Angieʼs club Cappawhite. Itʼs been great to have grown up to play alongside some of those older girls who played for that Tipp team in 2008 (which links back to my childhood memory I look back on with fondness)!
What's your biggest fear?
would be picking up a serious or long-term injury that would prevent me participating in my sport, training & staying fit and active. Being a Physiotherapist helps me to understand the importance of prehab and injury prevention when playing sport.
Tell me about your community!
the GAA is a huge part of my life - itʼs about pride of place, and gives me a sense of belonging and worth. Itʼs where I have made many friendships and built relationships with people in the community. The GAA brings people together in a special way. This is evident wherever you are in the world, there is always a GAA club. Even though Iʼm in Australia playing AFLW there are lots of GAA clubs in Melbourne which you can meet irish people with the same interests. It never feels like you are too far from home. The GAA epitomises to me good community values. Everyone rows in behind each other for the community and it gives people equal opportunity and sense of purpose in sport, whether it is as a player, a coach, a volunteer or a supporter. For me itʼs where everything started and I owe so much to the GAA for where I am today and the opportunities I have gotten.
What keeps you motivated?
Iʼm a very competitive person and love achieving success after working hard. I am constantly trying to better myself. Making small achievable goals as an individual and as a team helps to keep me on my toes and constantly strive to improve.
What's a childhood memory that you look back with with fondness?
When I was 12 years old I was picked to play in the half time mini games in 2008 of the Ladies Gaelic Football All-Ireland final days. On that day Tipperary were playing in the intermediate final. It was my “Cant See it, Cant be it” moment. Looking up to players like Angie Mcdermott, Mairead Morrisey and Jen Grant, I had palpable real life role models and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. A few years later I went on to play with some of those girls in 2013 and achieving all Irelands success in 2017&2019 with Tipperary.
Aisling's Top Tips
As a qualified physiotherapist, I am a major advocate for exercise and I have a role in advising and assisting people to keep physically active. Regular physical activity reduces your risk of major illness such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and cancer. As well as the many physical health benefits, exercise is proven to have a positive impact on your mental health. It is
recommended to exercise at a moderate intensity for a total of 150 minutes per week (in other words, 30 minutes five times per week).
Here are my top tips for getting physically active!
- Choose a type of exercise you enjoy.
- Starting off, set small achievable goals specific to your ability. This may be walking for 5 minutes each day, and building towards achieving the recommended 150 minutes per week.
- Keep an exercise diary and allocate slots to exercise at a time of day that suits you. It will make you more accountable.
- Keep pushing yourself! Once your exercise session feels too easy, increase the duration or intensity.
- For strength based exercises you do not need any fancy gym equipment. Bodyweight exercises are sufficient to build strength or improvise with objects (ie. Water bottles, tins) at home to add weight to your home workouts.
- Have patience – it can take 4 to 6 weeks to notice the benefits of exercise!
Stay tuned for more from Aisling McCarthy as she continues her Australasian adventures!