Student Sport Ireland Leadership Award 2020 – Aine McParland Dublin City University

Aine McParland (right) winner of the 2020 SSI Leadership Award, presenting Emma Cousins (Loreto Wexford) with a player of the tournament award for a Ladies Football Blitz organised by DCU.

Dublin City University student Aine McParland was awarded the 2020 Student Sport Ireland Leadership Award at the SSI Network 2020 Webinar for her engagement in student sport and life in DCU over the past three years.

In what was a very busy 2019-20 academic year for Aine she began by organising a ladies Gaelic football participation blitz in DCU in October, which was run to engage students and increase participation on the back of the 20×20 Third Level Members campaign.

DCU hosted both the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup finals in early 2020 and Aine was hugely involved in the background of this event and was MC during both finals. Aine was involved from start to finish in the hosting of the competitions attending all the matches, sold programmes, operated score boards and lead a team of volunteers for the events. Her professional organization skills were noted by all members of the HEC GAA committee who organize the tournaments.

Aine is a coach with the DCU Giles Cup team who are made up mainly by first year students and Aine has been described as a “mother hen” to these girls helping them with their football and also any issues they may have in college, she has been a huge help to fresher students settling into life away from home for the first time.

Her love for the Gaelic Games sees her volunteer in several roles in the different areas of the games. Aine is the registrar for the LGFA Higher Education Colleges Committee, a role where she has helped to increase the numbers playing in 2020. Aine also volunteers and chairs the GAA Youth Reps ensuring that young people are given a chance to have their voice heard in matters of importance to them, whilst also educating, empowering and engaging with them. Through this working group, Aine plays a lead role in organizing the annual GAA Youth Forum when over 400 young people descend on Croke Park to have their voice heard.

Aine is an inspiration to many people, having recently been asked to attend leadership conferences to inspire young girls, telling her own story. She also coaches her club underage teams and acts as a mentor to those who need her. Unique to Aine is her compassion towards others and their interests. She actively finds opportunities for younger members of the club that will benefit them as well as the greater good of the club.

Aine was elected an Ordinary Member of the DCU Club Life Committee (CLC) for 2019/20. CLC is the governing body for clubs in DCU and is responsible for the development, operations and funding of all clubs on campus. Aine embraced this role wholeheartedly and was an integral member of the committee for the year making a valuable contribution to sports and club life on Campus. Aine was also nominated as a DCU 20×20 Student Champion. In this role, Aine helped increase the profile and participation of women in sport in DCU.

DCU Interim Head of Gaelic Games, Paul O’Brien expressed his congratulation to Aine McParland on winning the SSI Leadership Award, ‘I am delighted that Aine has been awarded with this prestigious award. It is fully merited for her immense contribution to Gaelic Games in DCU and beyond. She has been the very heartbeat of the club and we have a massive task on hand to fill the void that will be left with her graduation from Accounting & Finance. I am lucky to have learned from Aine in her time in DCU.’