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Belinda playing the game of life


FROM THE ARCHIVES Belinda Patterson is pictured in action for Castlebar Town against Kilmore LFC in the Mary Walsh Memorial Cup (Under-17) Final a number of years ago. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Belinda Patterson talks about motherhood, loss and why she loves playing soccer

Michael Gallagher

IT’S like we were never apart. Saturday morning in downtown Castlebar and the place is hopping, but the three of us have so much to talk about that the crowds do not matter.
Kirsten Sheeran, Belinda Patterson and I have history.
We met, two decades ago, when all three of us were obviously much younger, but the women seemed to have stalled the ageing process, while the opposite has occurred to their former coach.
Kirsten and Belinda played football for Davitt College and Castlebar Mitchels and were misfortunate enough to have this writer as the man on the sideline. They achieved great things in both the green and white and red and yellow, and they also set the place alight with displays in the black and white of Castlebar Town FC.
The duo are now 25 and still playing soccer.
On Sunday next they will dance across the ground in Milebush when taking on their old rivals Manulla in the Connacht Womens Senior Cup final. It promises to be a cracker and both women can hardly wait for the action to commence.
“There’s very little between Manulla and ourselves. The last three games between us have been draws, so something will have to give next weekend,” began Kirsten before developing the point.
“They have a very fine team. They have done very well in national competitions and it should be a great game on Sunday.”
When the big game kicks off and Castlebar women look towards the Town bench they will see two very familiar faces – John Flanagan and Kevin Sheeran.
The two men have been with the black and white for a generation. They have coached them from the day they arrived as nervous little girls all the way to magical occasions as adults.
On Sunday they’ll be looking for another great performance.
“Kirsten said Manulla were a fine team and they are – but we’re good too,” says Belinda. “We have really good girls playing all over the pitch and I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t win it.”
It was meant to be a chat to preview next Sunday’s big match in Milebush – instead it turned out to be an emotionally brilliant conversation about babies, sorrow, delight, exams, a sporting lifetime and many other laughter-inducing subjects.
Belinda Patterson is a spectacular woman, but that’s no surprise – she always was. Right-half-back for the hugely successful Castlebar Mitchels and Davitt College Gaelic football teams, she was also on the same wing for Castlebar Town FC.
On Saturday she will wear the black and white of Castlebar Town for as long as her legs will carry her.
“I can’t understand why people give up sport just because they’ve played for a few years,” she told The Mayo News. “Playing football has been part of life since we were tiny. We love it and enjoy playing. “I can’t imagine quitting until my legs give out, so hopefully that will be a while yet.”
The fact that Belinda became a mother just a few short months ago and will wear the number 2 shirt in next weekend’s final says a lot about her warrior spirit. Her little boy, Charlie, is most certainly her top priority but she also finds time for Castlebar Town.
“Of course, Charlie is everything. He’s such a good boy and great craic and I’m very lucky to have Dylan (Belinda’s partner) and Mam. “I couldn’t continue playing without them stepping up and helping with Charlie when there’s games or training.
“I’m a mam right up to the warm-up but then Dylan or Mam take over and I’m a footballer again.”
Is the power and the passion as strong as ever, powering down the right wing?
“Oh God, yeah. I couldn’t play if it wasn’t like that. It has always been ‘all or nothing’ with me and that won’t change any time soon.”
How soon was Belinda back playing after Charlie’s birth?
“I had to get back. There was no way I was missing football when I knew I could play again. I had an emergency C-Section and then developed sepsis after the birth, but I was fine after a few weeks and seven weeks after the birth I reckoned I was fine. I asked the doc’ if I could play and forgot to mention the C-section,” she smiled.
“I was back playing the next day.”
Belinda is a powerful young woman but the mention of her twin sister Melissa stops the clock for a moment. The duo had a telepathic understanding on and off the pitch; the same drive and passion to succeed and were almost impossible to identify such was their likeness.
Melissa passed away tragically in July 2015 and the world stopped spinning for a while. Life is different now but Belinda can speak about her twin now without crying; however everyone else at the table were in bits when the subject came up.
“Of course, I think about her every day. Every single day. She was something else. I wear her number 2 jersey now every time I play and the same will happen this week. I miss her all the time but it will be tougher this week in the run-up to the final.
“She’d be buzzing about it and bouncing around the place – so we will just go and play and if we win we’ll know she’s celebrating wherever she is.”
Soon, it was time to go back to normal life again, but Belinda Patterson will never be ordinary – never was; never will be.
On Sunday she’ll run and run and run for her beloved Castlebar Town. That’s the way it was; that’s the way it is; that’s the way it always will be.


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