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Maria still making time for sport


CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Mayo captain Maria Staunton celebrates with her team-mates afer the 2000 All-Ireland LGFA Senior Football Final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Michael Gallagher

THESE days she can be found hiking through the countryside, helping to coach the Breaffy Under-10 boys or playing basketball with her friends in Castlebar Mustangs.
In the sporting world Maria Staunton is best known for captaining the Mayo ladies to win the National League and All-Ireland senior championship double in 2000, but that is only a chapter in the sporting life of the former Carnacon star.
“I grew up playing basketball. I suppose I started off when I was nine or ten and still play a bit, but it’s definitely for fun these days,” she told The Mayo News.
“I was always quite competitive and we had a really good team at Castlebar Rockets in those years and at school too. I played on the North West Regional team too and always loved the game.
“Of course, football was a huge thing at home in Carnacon when I was growing up. I was lucky enough to get onto the Mayo Under-14 team and we won the All-Ireland A title. I’m not sure we’ve won it since.
“We contested a lot of All Ireland semi-finals and finals in the following years but the next national win we had was in 1999 when we won the senior championship for the first time. That was a special day.
“I was 19 at the time and we were on top of the world. The following year I captained the team and we won the double. Looking back on it now, I think those wins helped change sporting thoughts in this part of the world.
“I remember when I was at secondary school in St Joseph’s in Castlebar we asked if we could have a football team, but it didn’t happen.
“Then, when we won the double in 2000, Fr Mike Murphy [school chaplain at the time] brought me in there with the cup and it wasn’t long before the school had a team. That has helped the local clubs ever since and shows the influence success and seeing success has on society.”
Of course, Maria was part of a hugely successful Carnacon team and has probably eight county and provincial medals to her name (she’s not sure how many exactly, but she’s absolutely certain that she was part of the famous team to win the club’s first All Ireland in 2002).
“I was only 22 at the time, but I had finished playing with Mayo at that time and was doing other things in life and sport.
“In 2004 I ran the New York Marathon and had to miss the All-Ireland semi-final for Carnacon with an injury. I had been Player of the Match in the Connacht final, so it was annoying to miss that game,” he explained.
Coaching the Mayo Under-14 girls followed but Maria was busy on the business front where she got a role with iHub in Castlebar in 2006.
The role is all about supporting start-up businesses and, after 17 years in the job, she’s as enthusiastic as ever.
“I love it. There’s always something different and right now I’m very passionate about a new programme for females called EMPOWERher.ie. I would encourage any female who ever thought about developing her own business to click on to it.”
Maria also chairs the official Mayo GAA fundraising group, Cairde Mhaigh Eo, which supports Mayo GAA with financial innovations.
She enjoys the voluntary role which combines her sporting and business interests.
However, she loves getting back to the cut and thrust of live sport. She plays basketball with her friends weekly in Castlebar for fun.
“Sometimes the competitive streak comes out, but I try to keep it under wraps.” She goes hiking with friends. “Two of the buddies I hike with are buddies from my Mayo days.” She helps coach the Castlebar Comets U-10 boys team and fills the same role with Breaffy U-10 boys GAA team.
“I’d be there anyway watching our son, Rory, so when I got the chance to help out with the coaching I jumped at it.
“Like everyone else, my free time is very limited but I love sport and training kids and helping them succeed is what makes it fun.”

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