City of Derry player Michelle Gormley McLaughlin is hoping her recent Interprovincial debut for Ulster will inspire more ladies in the north west and beyond to take up a sport she only started playing at the age of 40!
Michelle, a sports lecturer at North West Regional College, claims age should never be a barrier to sport, adding that she was delighted to have got the call-up to Ulster at the age of 47.
The local lecturer, who coordinates the Level 2 Diploma in Sport course at NWRC, made her competitive bow against Munster on Sunday's 20-40 defeat at Chambers Park in Portadown and now she now hopes her success will encourage her sports students at the College and other women across the North West, to have a go at rugby.
“I played my first rugby match on my 40th birthday,” revealed Michelle who had previously played camogie and Gaelic football.
“The call-up took me completely by surprise because I wasn’t expecting it, but I’ve done all the training which meant going to Portadown every Wednesday night. I had lots to learn after being thrown in at the deep end and I had to get to know the rest of the team."
“It has been fantastic though and I started off playing a friendly against Connaught where I got on to play for a full half. And on Sunday I made my official debut for Ulster against Munster”.
The loosehead prop forward says she now hopes her performance on the Ulster squad will inspire her sports students at NWRC.
“I love encouraging young people and I think it’s good that, as well as teaching sports to the young people, they see me out there doing it.
“I believe it adds value to my teaching and keeps it current and to the point.
“I was one of the first students to ever take a course in sport at NWRC when they first introduced the subject at the college exactly 30 years ago.
“It was a brilliant course and the place where I was introduced to outdoor education. Since then I’ve watched hundreds of students go on to teach sport, travel the world, open their own gym, and much more. It’s always great to hear of the successes.”