Mary Dwyer was never shy about taking a great leap forward.
In 1983, the Carlow Town woman, under her maiden name of Mary Coogan, established an Irish long jump record of six metres 17 centimetres and then lengthened it by nine centimetres in a two-year stint as an Irish national champion.
When she married John, and became a mother to Amy, John and Lauren, she always wanted the best for them.
Like her mother, Lauren was a talented athlete, an all-round heptahlete, as well as playing football with Bennekerry-Tinryland.
But soccer thieved her heart.
At St Joseph’s, she played with her friends in a mixed team but by the time she started secondary school, she was told that she could no longer play with boys.
Confronted with the dilemma, Mary Dwyer decided there was only one thing to do. Take a leap faith. “Let’s start her own team!”
And so the St Joseph’s U-14 team was born. “It was basically my friends’ group!” recalls Lauren Dwyer now. “So it was just all of us playing and enjoying it.
“There was always the men’s side so we just wanted enough girls to play on one team. We only had that one team, now they have a senior team and under-age teams.
“I thought it was a great laugh, training and playing every week with my friends.
“But we were playing in the Kilkenny league because Carlow didn’t actually have a league.
“My mam pretty much did everything. But she wouldn’t have known anything really about football.”
Dwyer thrived, so much so that by the time she was 15 she was playing representative soccer when Wexford Youths, one of the original members of the inaugural Women’s National League in 2011, approached her to join.
At 15, she was too young to sign terms so delayed her career until the 2012 season; a move to Shelbourne soon followed and suddenly her sporting life was plotted.
But then the map of her life tragically altered shape.
Mary had suffered breast cancer when Lauren was smaller but recovered; sadly, her sister, Anne, passed while Lauren was doing the Junior Certificate.
It was then that Mary received the news that her cancer had returned.
“This time it was for good,” recalls Dwyer. “There was a three- or four-year period where we knew it was not good.
“She ended up getting sick during the summer of 2015 and they said it was a matter of time. They gave a timeframe of six-to-eight weeks and it was nearly to the eight-week mark that she passed away.”
All the while, Dwyer had been completing her Leaving Cert, as well as playing football. The devastating end came on the morning of her debs.
“She was very, very sick when I was doing my Leaving Cert and then it was the day of my debs, at 10 past six in the morning, when she ended up passing away.
“I was supposed to go to the debs that evening. My friends came up at nine o’clock that morning.
“My sister and my dad asked if I was sure I didn’t want to go. They just wanted to keep my mind occupied. But I said no. I’ll never forget it. It was an awful time.
“Especially going through your Leaving Cert as well. Not many people knew how sick she was. She was a well-built woman and she went down to a size six or even smaller.
“It was hard to see. And she didn’t really know what was going on. Her mind had gone and she was asking if she was dying.
“It was hard to comprehend. It’s something I wouldn’t like for my worst enemy.”
Her mum would have travelled up and down with her on Shelbourne assignments but on the first day she had to contemplate having to make the trip alone, she simply couldn’t face it.
She had to come home.
After taking a few months away from the game entirely, she got in touch with Wexford and asked could she return to her footballing cradle.
One evening, she just texted Kylie Murphy and asked her to collect her for training.
It felt like she had never left. And now she never wants to.
“People ask why you play, it’s not professional, you are still working and all that. But there is such a bigger picture in my life of why I’m doing it, especially for my mam.
“And obviously my dad has picked up a lot of it. He used to come with us as well. He was phenomenal.
“He’d bring me the length and breadth of the country, same with my mam, but even at a younger age in primary school.
“Myself and one of the other girls Aoibheann Webb who used to play for Wexford, we thought we’d have a decent enough team in primary school.
“I asked the vice-principal at the time could we put a team in if I got someone to coach. He said, ‘yeah, who do you have in mind?’. I was like, ‘my mam and my dad’.
“He told me to go into the principal’s office to ring them. I was like, ‘Mam, would you mind bringing us tomorrow?’.
“They ended up coaching with the vice-principal and we went on and won the All-Ireland five-a-side. It was phenomenal. We won Leinster and the south-east.
“So it goes a long way back in terms of how much they would have done for me. It’s often said that after something like that happens that you realise they really did everything for you to put you in the position you are in in your life now.
“I am forever grateful for it and I think that’s why you still keep going, even when times are tough. You always look back on the memories you’ve made, why you’re here and the reasons why you are here.”
Resilience has been earned through tough times, arming her to cope with the vicissitudes of winning and losing on a sports field.
“I used to do athletics,” says Dwyer, now 25. “So that’s a very individual sport. Mam used to coach me. If anything goes wrong, there is no one else to blame, only yourself.
“I think that was brought into football. That’s why you become so resilient.
“You can determine the outcome, whether you are having a good day or a bad day in a match.
“But you always need to keep your head up because there are others around you that you can impact.
“That’s one of the big things. It’s my background of athletics, and the passing of my mam and auntie.
“It’s built me into the person I am today.”
Where the winning and losing of a game never matters as much as remembering why you play it.