Monday 26 September 2016

Reel life lessons a source of inspiration for Armagh

Published 16/07/2016 | 02:30

Sharon Reel
Sharon Reel

This week's tough TG4 All-Ireland championship draw means nothing is getting easier for Armagh's ladies footballers this summer.

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Still reeling from their shock Ulster semi-final rout by Monaghan, they face Waterford next week in the only preliminary-round game, a re-match of the 2012 intermediate final.

Yet with veteran wing-back Sharon Reel for inspiration, no barrier seems insurmountable.

Ten years ago Reel spent a year in Australia and got home just in time to see the county lose their first and only All-Ireland senior final.

She first played senior for her club at just 13 and was a dual underage star.

She played socially Down Under but, for the first time in her life, had let her hair down. Two roads diverged and she could easily have taken the wrong one.

"I actually didn't take a drink until I was 20. I was a late starter but it found me for a while alright!" she jokes.

Today she juggles senior inter-county with a thriving fitness business she has built from the ground up in her native Killeavy.

"My father was a car mechanic all his life so he had a big shed at home," she explains. "He took sick in 2008 and lost his bowel so he stopped using the shed. It was lying idle so I saw the opportunity to renovate it.

"Within six weeks it was gutted, done up and that's my studio in there now. We've just added another 20 foot to it.

"It's in a little village, in the middle of nowhere, but just seems to have worked and I definitely made a lot of connections through Gaelic."

Reel worked on the gym reception at the Carrickdale Hotel for years but, to train initially, spent 18 month driving up and down to night classes in DCU and just kept up-skilling.

Now she is not only owner/manager of 'SR Fitness Studio' but gives all the classes. She often starts at 6.15am and finishes at 8.30 yet still makes county training.

"My last class on Tuesday nights is 6.30-7.15. I jump straight into the car and drive 35 minutes to Armagh," she says. "The girls already have their warm-up done but I'm well warmed up too."

Her business took off when Aidan O'Rourke asked her to train his men's team in Dromintee.

"I was initially intimidated but bit the bullet. Gradually I started to go around to wee rural clubs and halls, setting up classes and it grew from there," she says.

Reel exhibits the irresistible energy of all entrepreneurs but even she is not emotionally indestructible.

"We all have good and bad days. I've been through the mill myself at times but I think if you're physically strong and fit, you're a lot stronger mentally," she says.

"Football's been great too. Like I'm 32 and Aimee and Blaithin Macken, they're teenagers, but we'd be laughing and joking at training. For those two hours you can forget about all the tough things in your life.

"Sport and team players definitely get you through your tough times. For me it's all about family, football and a wee bit of faith."

Sharon Reel features in the WGPA's 'Be You - Belong' campaign. For more see www.wgpa.ie

Irish Independent

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