Writes Ciaran Dineen
Former PE and Maths teacher at Carrigaline Community School, Bríd Stack, has made her long-awaited comeback from injury to make her Sydney Giants debut in the Australian Football League over the weekend.
Ms Stack had been an incredibly popular teacher during her time with the local school, both with staff and its students. A seven-time all-star and serial All-Ireland winner with the Cork Ladies Football team, the now 35 year-old changed career paths over the course of the last 18 months, making the decision to move to Australia in an attempt to make it in the pro-sports game, heading ‘Down Under’ with her husband and one year-old child.
The 11 time All-Ireland champion and 2016 Ladies Footballer of the Year had followed in the footsteps of fellow footballing hero, Cora Staunton of Mayo, joining her former foe at the Sydney Giants.
It had all started so well for the former school teacher, who played well in her first practice match for her new club almost a year to the date, in January 2021. In the final moments of her unofficial debut, Bríd went down to gain possession of the ball when she collided with an opposition player, in what looked to be a fairly innocuous clash.
However, the injury sustained was much worse than could ever have been imagined as Stack came within millimetres of being left a paraplegic after being diagnosed with a C7 vertebra fracture in her neck, which ruled her out for the entire 2021 AFWL season. Despite the near life-changing injury, the former Cork star made the decision that she would not give up her goal of becoming a professional athlete and would begin the process of making a long-term recovery.
Just before Christmas this year, Stack was getting ready to return to Adelaide to face the same team that she suffered her injury in. However, as she was mentally preparing to restart her AFLW career, that had to be cancelled due to COVID impacts. A year - and countless setbacks - on, with a full pre-season under her belt, there were tears (of joy this time) when coach Alan McConnell announced Stack would make her long-awaited professional debut on Sunday 9th January.
Upon being told of her inclusion by her coach and by now teammate Cora Staunton, Stack immediately burst into tears as she could not hide 12 months’ worth of blood, sweat and tears.
Speaking to her club’s media team, Bríd said, I’m just so, so excited, it’s probably a massive relief. There were obviously a lot of logistics to work out at home first before I could commit to this season but there’s definitely been a burning desire in me and I definitely want to give it a go. I want to repay this team for the love and support they showed my family last year and hopefully I can do that on the playing field.”
While many would have been cautious to throw themselves into a hard-hitting contest after the injury she had sustained, the Cork woman did not hold back on her debut and ended up finishing with 6 disposals and 5 tackles. That helped her side to a 36-21 victory against the Gold Coast Suns, making it a perfect start to the new AFLW season.