Determined Duffy a role model for all

IRELAND netball captain Fran Duffy has seen a lot in her decade in the national team.

Although netball may not be top of the popularity pecking order in the Emerald Isle, Duffy says that things are tracking in the right direction.

“I think I’ve always, I’ve been playing for Ireland for nearly 10 years now and I have seen a growth in the sport and the promotion of and the development within the Ireland pathway,” Duffy said.

“For me I guess being able to see the set up in England and compare it to Ireland, it is more difficult because it isn’t a national sport and therefore it doesn’t get probably the recognition we all strive for and are determined to make netball as well known as we can in Ireland.

“That being said, I’ve never felt that going across to Ireland has kind of diminished kind of the status of netball, as a team and as a management team and as an organisation, we have worked to get Ireland recognised and each year we are getting closer, and the closer we get more doors are opening. It is a long journey, but we are getting there and steps are taking place each and every year to get us one step closer to progressing as a nation and a sport that hopefully the nation does recognise and know more about.”

As captain of the Emeralds, even though she is not as famous as other Irish national team captains like Katie McCabe, she still sees herself as a role model for others.

“For me my position as captain, I am still a role model,” she said. “I’m still holding that captaincy status with all the responsibility that comes with it, and just because I’m not famous or it’s not as well recognised as a sport, actually the captaincy role has the same responsibilities and prestige I’d say as other sports with a bigger following. I still and wear the captaincy armband with pride, I still have a role and am held accountable to my team and management.”

It has been quite the career for Duffy. Born and raised in England, she began playing as a six year old but then came up through the Yorkshire pathway, eventually trialling at what is now the Leeds Rhinos and going to play at Loughborough Lightning as a teenager.

Thanks to eligibility through her Irish grandfather, she was able to trial for the Republic of Ireland national team, first as a 19 year old just starting out at university. A month after first trialling she was off to Singapore with the Emeralds for a tournament, and has since also climbed the leadership ranks in the team, first as vice captain and then promoted to captain a few years ago.

Her biggest career highlight came just after lockdown when the Emeralds were lucky enough to play a match against South Africa, and Duffy really enjoyed the test and learnings that came from that match.

Although some may see Duffy’s position of living in one country and representing another at international level as pretty unique, she does not.

“So it’s quite common actually, especially in netball, to travel and that’s travel nationally, internationally, for the game really,” she said. “So for me I guess it’s quite common, it does not phase me. I do get asked quite a lot like how do you do it, how do you travel all the time? I just think especially at this level, it’s not really a choice. Well it is a choice obviously to do it, but you do it because I obviously want to represent my country and my heritage.”

Although a shooter now, she originally started as a sing defence but quickly moved into a shooting role because she is more an attacking player.  

Life is pretty busy for Duffy both on and off the court. Not only is she balancing an international netball career but she is a full time corporate lawyer in Manchester.

“It is challenging. I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was hard work,” she said with a laugh.

“I am a very driven woman and I don’t think I would let anybody tell me that I’m unable to do both. I’ve always wanted a career and I made the choice to study at 18 to do law and studied for five years at university in order to get to where I am.

“When I was making that decision to study, netball wasn’t a professional, you weren’t able to train or still not really able to train to become a professional, well netball isn’t professional over here at this moment in time. So being able to actually pick a career as a side I was interested in and still being able to choose to or work hard to be able to play international netball, that was my choice and I am happy with that decision.”

It is this balance that she says is her ultimate career goal, to “continue to balance my two lives” as she calls it.

But with a work ethic and determination that has seen her achieve a lot already, who is to say this will not continue for years to come.

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