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  • Northside West

Bohemian Foundation brings soccer programme to Dochás

Saturday, 22nd June, 2019 1:00pm
Bohemian Foundation brings soccer programme to Dochás

The Bohemian Foundation women’s soccer team with Jeff Conway (right) and Kenneth Coakley.

Bohemian Foundation brings soccer programme to Dochás

The Bohemian Foundation women’s soccer team with Jeff Conway (right) and Kenneth Coakley.

Ryan Clarke

THE Bohemian Foundation has expanded its Mountjoy Prison programme to now include the Dochás Centre – the women’s wing of the prison - in its work.

When Dochás Governor Mary O’Connor was approached by Thomas Hynes on behalf of the Foundation she accepted his offer to help the women in Dochás without hesitation.

 “The benefits of sport are well known and giving the women in Dochás an opportunity to be trained by coaches was very welcome,” she said.

‘Change Through Sport’ is the motto of the Foundation, but change isn’t strictly reserved for those who are behind bars. A six-week training programme was developed by long-time Foundation volunteers, Jeff Conway and Kenneth Coakley, for both the prisoners and the women of the Foundation team.

The goal of the programme was not only to prepare both teams to face-off against one another, but also to improve their own mental and physical well being.

“Most of the girls on the inside would have never played any football, or very little football, before they went in,” Conway said.

“Also, the girls who came in to play against the prisoners haven’t played football for nearly 10 years as well.

“Just seeing people enjoy a game of football for what it is - running around, laughing and having a bit of craic - is great.”

Watching on from the side-line Conway and Coakley were delighted with the culmination of the six-week programme.

“Jeff and I were standing back watching and there wasn’t one bad tackle or one angry word, the girls all had a laugh together,” Coakley said.

The prize at stake for both teams was the inaugural Bohemian Foundation Community Cup. The plan is that a match for the cup will be played multiple times throughout the years and into the future. This continuity in helping people is what the Bohemian Foundation prides itself on.

“We never start anything that we don’t intend to continue into the future and we intend to get multiple sponsors throughout the year for trophies,” Bohemian Foundation president Thomas Hynes said.

“The Foundation would like to thank Denis Cruise for his continuous support of these programmes.”

From the first kick of the game, there was an intensity to the match that might have caught many spectators off guard. With the ball pinging around the rubber surface of the prison yard, the Foundation took an early lead before two goals in as many minutes had Dochás leading at the interval.

When the match restarted, the second half was every bit as engrossing as the first had been. Wave after wave of Foundation attacks were stifled by the superb defending of the Dochás centre-back and when the ball did get past her, the goalkeeper kept defying the odds to preserve the lead for Dochás.

Inevitably fatigue set it and with just five minutes remaining, the Foundation scored three goals to narrowly clinch the inaugural cup 4-2.

The idea behind this event was more than just a game of football though. For the Bohemian Foundation it is about continuing their method of bringing the outside community into the prison, and breaking down the barriers and preconceived notions both sides may have about each other.

An example of this was in the fact that a member of staff in the Dochás Centre played on the same team as the inmates.

“I think what the Foundation team got out of this was that they get to see these people are just women too,” Coakley said.

“This whole event was about women supporting women, women helping each other and there was a great sense that we were doing work that really makes a difference to people.

“At the end of the day people are just people, and this keeps us grounded.”

Before the cup was presented to the winning team, unprompted, one prisoner on behalf of the rest thanked the Bohemian Foundation for giving up their Sundays to train them. With a wry smile she added that the Foundation team would lose the rematch.

As they walked out of the Dochás Centre, Conway and Coakley reflected on what had been a successful six-weeks. Eager to take a short break before resuming their duties with the Bohemian Foundation Coakley said: “It’s hard that we’re away from our families but this is so rewarding. There should be more of this work going on in my opinion.”

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