Joanne Cantwell: Return to football gave me 'a new lease of life'

The Sunday Game host returned to play junior B football last year after a decade away from the sport
Joanne Cantwell: Return to football gave me 'a new lease of life'

Joanne Cantwell during a Charity Croke Park Challenge Self Help Africa match in 2018 at Croke Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Joanne Cantwell says her return to playing junior B football has given her "a new lease of life".

The Sunday Game host was an All-Star nominee during her time playing with Dublin at full-back in the late '90s. She received a GAA scholarship to DCU to study journalism and soon her broadcasting career took over at the expense of football.

Speaking to Paul Rouse and Oisín McConville on the Irish Examiner's Gaelic Football Show podcast, Cantwell said that decision to stop playing while at her peak was part of the motivation to return.

"Why did I come back? I stopped playing properly when I was far too young, when I was early-to-mid-20s, because work started to get crazy. I could have continued to do it anyway. It was a stupid thing to do and a poor excuse. 

"But what happened was I got into this phase where it felt like I never played, even though football had dominated, and I mean dominated, my life for years. Then, to suddenly have it be like that never really happened is very strange. 

"I did briefly go back about 10 years ago for one year, just before I started a family. I got roped into joining the local club. 

"Then, a couple of years ago, Paul Earley gave me a call about something, and as a joke, he said, 'I'm training the girls again if you're interested in coming training', and I said, 'Really...' 

"So, I somehow found myself training with a load of young ones and having rings run around me but God, it was one of the best things I've ever done.

"It doesn't matter that I'm about two and a half times the age of most of my teammates and opponents. Especially last year, you feel like you're getting a new lease of life. It's brilliant."

She added: "I stopped playing when I was in my prime which is really annoying because I'm certainly a long way past that. Sometimes you stop doing things because you're a certain age and you feel you shouldn't do stuff. It turns out that that's not true. 

"I wanted to see that I could still do things, get out there and train and kick a football."

Cantwell did plenty of running in recent years to keep fit and said the Zoom sessions during lockdown were among the highlights of her week in the build-up to the return to collective training this month. 

"I love doing it so the body at the moment is fine. When you were younger, it's the muscles that are hurting you after a session, but when you get older, it's your bones. It makes you feel ancient," she said with a laugh.

Cantwell's Celbridge won the Kildare Junior B title last year, beating Milltown 4-11 to 3-13 in the final after extra time.

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