Monday 20 November 2017

'Hard as nails' Jesse (11) is first girl to represent lauded school-BOY league

DDSL footballer for Cherry Orchard Jessie Stapleton. Picture: Caroline Quinn
DDSL footballer for Cherry Orchard Jessie Stapleton. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Jesse Stapleton

Ciara Treacy

Watch out Stephanie Roche, there's another female footballer ready to show the boys how it's done.

Jesse Stapleton (11) from Ballyfermot has made history as she became the first girl to play with a representative team for the Dublin & District Schoolboys League (DDSL).

Her exceptional skills landed the Cherry Orchard FC player the spot in the team, making her the first of her gender to represent the DDSL at any level.

Jesse's first showing with the under-11 development squad was in Abbottstown last week, in a challenge game against the Drogheda League.

"It went very well, I enjoyed it," she told the Herald.

"I didn't know I was going to be playing with the representative team but my dad came in to tell me and he was very shocked and so was I."

While she may stand out in a crowd of boys on the field, Jesse feels the same as all the other players once the game gets started.

"It doesn't feel like I'm the only girl because I've been playing with them for years at school," she said.

Dancing

"I like hanging out with my friends in my spare time. They're all into dancing and stuff but I'm not.

"They're used to me always playing football now.

"I have been playing for five years and I did GAA before that too but I prefer football."

A fifth-class pupil at St Patrick's National School, Jesse has a busy schedule thanks to her sporting endeavours and time spent following her favourite team, Arsenal.

"We're off this week for Easter but train Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we have matches on Saturdays," she added.

Her talent was first spotted by proud dad Noel, an avid football fan who was delighted to pass his passion on to one of his children.

"She's unbelievable," he said.

"I have a son, Jake (15), but he has no interest in football.

"I played football all my life and still do five-a-sides now.

"From a young age I knew Jesse was brilliant - she's better than I ever was."

However the father has no fears in sending her out against the guys and insists she is more than able to take them on.

"She is hard as nails," he said. "She played GAA for years so she is strong.

"When people saw her out playing, they were thinking she must still play like a girl but their jaws dropped because she is so great at football.

"They are in the top three teams and she is one of the top three players. They will win the league again.

Dancing

"I go to all the games. Jake does Taekwondo so their mother has to bring him to that.

"They are both close. His friends are talking to him all the time, saying your sister is so good at football."

Even though she is doing something no Dublin girl has done before, Jesse is just a normal 11-year-old at heart.

"She's a girly-girl too, she's not a tomboy," said Noel.

"Her friends are out wearing make-up and her room is like a girl's room," her father said.

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