How an amateur GAA photographer took one of the football pictures of the year

The picture lit up social media and made the front of the Irish Examiner Sports supplement
How an amateur GAA photographer took one of the football pictures of the year

Ciara Buckley is still in shock. Less than 24 hours after her stunning picture of Aidan O’Shea and Séan Andy Ó Ceallaigh lit up social media - and made the front of the Irish Examiner Sports supplement - the retweets, likes and comments are still coming thick and fast.

“Rob Kearney gave it a like - I had to get a screenshot of that,” she laughed. “I never thought that one of my photographs would ever get this kind of a reaction. It is up around 5,000 retweets this morning” 

Buckley is a Mayo GAA fanatic though football is not her primary passion. 

“I’m actually the Mayo hurling PRO. My brother played hurling for Ballyhaunis about 10 years ago and I started taking pictures of his games and going to sports like rugby and rallying.

“Around 2016 the Mayo hurling manager JP Coen asked me if I would follow them for the season and take pictures and it took off from there. I became PRO the following year and since then I go to as many games as I can.” 

Her incredible work in promoting hurling didn’t go unnoticed and she was asked to assist with coverage of the Mayo footballers on matchday. 

"I have a blue-tooth on camera so when Mayo PRO Paul Cunnane is live-tweeting from matches I can just send him the photographs and he can add those to his uploads instantly. I can’t make every game as the hurling remains the priority.” 

So how did a 37-year-old EPS engineer with a passion for hurling capture such a sensational picture from the Allianz League Football game?

“I was on the sideline just underneath the scoreboard and was just about to put the camera away when I saw play coming my way.

"Ten minutes earlier my memory card was full and I went searching for another one. Thankfully I had a spare or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I was following the flight of the ball and Aidan jumped out of nowhere. I just pressed down on the button and it just took numerous shots.” 

The photograph was taken with a NIKON D3500 (‘I’ve no idea what kind of lens it was’, she laughed).

“Then I saw him go down and my first instinct was that he was injured. Anyway, I sent on the images to Paul and he uploaded them onto the Mayo GAA social account. Everything took off from there.

“I didn’t think it wasn’t as good as it was, initially. I didn’t think it would get the attraction it did last night. My phone was buzzing all night - in the end I had to put it on silent around midnight so I could get to sleep.” 

And does Ciara expect to be following the footballers now for the remainder of the year? 

“As I said I will go to as many games as I can but Mayo hurling always comes first though.”

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