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Christmas greetings from Australia


READY FOR ACTION Niamh Kelly is pictured in her West Coast Eagles AFLW kit ahead of the start of the new season in January.  Pic: Niamh Kelly Instagram

Mayo ladies star Niamh Kelly talks about spending Christmas in Australia

Michael Gallagher

NOBODY loves Christmas more than Niamh Kelly, but there will be no turkey and ham for the well-known Mayo ladies footballer from Bohola this year. Instead, she’ll be sharing a beach with kangaroos and enjoying meat from the barbeque in Western Australia.
Niamh and her sister, Grace, are in Perth preparing for a third season in the AFLW with West Coast Eagles, but they’re also hoping that Santa will visit and deliver some presents from home.
We caught up with her to find out what Christmas ‘Down Under’ is going to be like in comparison to back home in Mayo.

MG: Are you big into giving/receiving gifts?
NK: I absolutely love Christmas and like the novelty of going out and getting Christmas presents for family and friends – it’s a nice gesture for those we care about.
I exchange gifts every year with my family, my boyfriend Darragh, and friend Edel since we were young, so it is like tradition at this stage!
Acts of service like helping someone, checking in on people, etc. can be as fulfilling as giving physical gifts – so I like to make sure I include those too!

MG: What's the most thing you love about this time of the year?
NK: I love spending time with family and friends at Christmas time. I love sitting down for Christmas dinner and watching movies in front of the fire (in Ireland) or in front of the air-con here in Australia!
This year and last have been different to other Christmases as I’ve been in Perth. I miss family a lot, especially at this time of year, but I try to make the most of it here and do a few things that I would generally do at home to make it feel more like Christmas.
I try to immerse myself in the Aussie culture a bit too though, although, I wouldn’t say I’d be one for a ‘shrimp on the barbie.’
Over here, I appreciate the good weather around Christmas, look forward to phone calls from home, and head to the beach for a morning swim to start my day.

MG: How do you usually prepare for the festivities?
I love the lead up to Christmas – it’s exciting and I enjoy the preparations! When at home in Mayo, I like to listen to the Christmas tunes and help Mam put up the decorations around the house!
NK:I enjoy Christmas shopping. I usually make a list of all I need to get before I go, so I can enjoy it more.
Making plans to meet family and friends around Christmas is always a big part of the prep - making sure to spend quality time with them is what it’s all about. Being away from home this year, I’ll spend time with friends over here in Perth and have lots of FaceTimes with friends and family at home.

MG: What's the build-up to Christmas been like this year?
NK: The build-up is a little different this year as we are away from home, but also because our season is starting earlier this year, so it is just around the corner. Grace and I are getting geared up for our third season with West Coast Eagles beginning on January 9, which is exciting!
Getting ready for Christmas in the middle of summer and putting on sun cream seems a bit crazy!! It’s on average about 30-35 degrees every day, so it’s a lot different to what we’re used to in Bohola.
We have done a few Christmas things over here. We went on a Christmas light cruise with a few of the girls last week to see some lights by the river. That kickstarted the Christmas for us which was cool. Our team have organised a ‘Kris Kindle’ between ourselves so we will come together to do that in the next few days and have a BBQ together just before Christmas.
We are training a lot in the club at the moment as our season starts soon.
The build-up to that has been exciting and busy. We go into the club either five or six days a week for trainings, gym sessions, team meetings, recovery sessions, etc. There’s great hype around the club in the lead-up to the season commencing and also with Christmas just around the corner.
The place is buzzing at the moment and it’s great to be part of it.

MG: Have you decided what you're doing for Christmas dinner yet?
NK: The two of us are travelling south of Perth to a place called Esperance for Christmas to get the full Aussie experience this year. We’re staying near a beach called Lucky Bay, which is famous for having kangaroos on the beach so that will definitely be an experience!
We’re going there with four of the girls on our team. Two of them are from Adelaide and they can’t get home for Christmas either because of the tight borders here in Western Australia, so it will be nice to spend it with them. We’re planning on having a full Aussie celebration this year, so we will barbeque a few meats, and have some roast veg and salads for the dinner. Grace and I are making some Irish desserts, so we’ll see how they go down!

MG: What are the main differences between Christmas preparations in Bohola and Perth?
NK: Oh my God, it’s much different here in Perth compared to what it’s like in Bohola. The weather and not being around family are the two main differences for me. I always associate Christmas with family and with the cold weather so it’s a lot different. At home, I’m usually wrapped up in front of the fire with family or friends around, and with a cup of hot chocolate or tea in hand. I’ll probably substitute the hot chocolate for a hydrolyte this year.
Christmas in Perth is a completely different experience to home! A lot of people here have barbeques or seafood for Christmas lunch or dinner, and people tend to go to the beach/pool on Christmas morning for a swim.
A lot of the day is spent outside.
Last year it was 40 degrees on Christmas Day! We had a bit of an Irish Christmas away from home last year, which was lovely.
We cooked the turkey and ham as we would at home and some of the other Irish girls who play AFLW over here spent the day with us. Aisling McCarthy who also plays for West Coast Eagles, Áine Tighe who plays with Fremantle, and Aileen Gilroy, another Mayo woman who plays with North Melbourne, spent the day here. Aileen lives in Melbourne, but she quarantined in Perth last year and was just out of quarantine on Christmas Day.
Her sister and sister’s boyfriend (Emma and Connelly) flew over from Melbourne to surprise her which was lovely!
Not being around family at Christmas time is the biggest difference. It’s hard because Christmas for me is about family. We’ll miss our family, boyfriends, and friends, but we will stay connected with them through FaceTime and catch up with them lots that way!
I’m very lucky to have Grace out here with me – it feels like I have a bit of home away from home with me and it makes a huge difference.

MG: Will you be training over Christmas?
NK: Yes, we will. We have a break away from the club for six or seven days over the Christmas break, but we will complete gym sessions and running/skills sessions in our own time. As our season begins a bit earlier this year, on January 9, we will enjoy Christmas and have a break mentally away from the club, but we will still train hard in small groups, and prepare smartly for the opening game of the season.
We’re really looking forward to the season starting up, and we’re all hoping to be more competitive as a team this year in our third year of the competition. We’ve been preparing really well and there’s a very positive sense about the competition. I suppose, we also feel more at home here now too.
We know a lot of people at home support us and keep an eye on how all the Mayo girls are doing out here, so we’ll be hoping to give them something to cheer in the coming weeks.

MG: What will 2022 hold for the Kelly sisters?
NK: Firstly, we’d like to wish everyone at home a happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. We’ll be hoping to be really competitive this season over here and we’re very excited about it.
To be honest, we haven’t even thought about it yet, but of course, we’ll also be looking forward to getting back playing with Moy Davitts and Mayo later in the year. Playing football at home is very special to both of us and of course we’ll be looking to achieve as much as possible.
Right now though, our sporting thoughts are all about January 9 and that first game, but first of all we’ll enjoy Christmas and relax for a while.

MG: Will Santa get to you in Perth?
NK: I hope so. He has never let us down yet!


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