Elaine rises to the top of women's football in Northern Ireland

ELAINE Junk will be a familiar name to most in sporting circles, particularly women's football.

Friday, 12th February 2010, 9:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2010, 8:30 am

Re-elected as Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Women’s FA (NIWFA), the local woman is the figurehead of the ladies game, in Northern Ireland.

Ironically, Elaine’s involvement in women’s football came about purely by chance. “I was out at hockey training one evening back in 1997 and got chatting to a few girls (Dungannon Athletic Ladies) playing football on the pitch beside ours.

"I played at this club for three seasons and by this stage there were several players going from Cookstown to Dungannon to play football. We then took the decision to try and form a club in Cookstown, recruit new players and develop a local club – hence Mid Ulster Ladies was formed and started playing competitive football in the 2000 season.”

Elaine has been very pro-active in developing Mid Ulster Ladies over the years and has been the Chairperson at the club for many years.

In the early years of Mid Ulster Ladies Elaine played regularly for the team and is still an active member. When asked about her playing time now Elaine laughed and said: “I’m still very much a part of the squad and available for selection but rarely selected – must be something to do with age and not being able to kick a ball!”

Despite her modesty as a player, Elaine must take credit for the work she has done off the pitch. Since the formation of Mid Ulster Ladies, Elaine, along with fellow team mates (in particular Clare Charles) frequently travelled to Belfast to represent her club at NIWFA committee meetings.

A lot of time and effort goes into women’s football in Northern Ireland and a couple of years ago in 2008 Elaine became actively involved as a volunteer within the NIWFA to try and help the game here move forward.

In 2009 Elaine was encouraged to stand for Chair of the Association and was awarded the post and her role requires her to represent and act as the voice for women’s football on numerous IFA committees.

This is a considerable undertaking as a volunteer to balance being her club Chairperson, NIWFA Chairperson and representing women’s football on the IFA Council; Coaching and Development Committee; Football Committee and IFA Women’s Committee as well as holding down a full-time job at the Northern Bank and being mum to a 16-month-old boy.

In December 2009 Elaine was re-elected unopposed as Chairperson of the NIWFA and after several months of negotiations headed by Elaine the Association this month announced the launch of a new partnership with Davison’s for sponsorship of the women’s domestic league and cup tournaments run by the Association.

Under their retail brand ‘Davison’s Frudles' the company will become title sponsor for all the leagues and cup tournaments under control of the NIWFA.

Apart from the financial investment, the partnership also includes a number of free footballs and bibs for clubs within the NIWFA. The sponsorship package is the largest to date in women’s domestic football. Elaine stressed that all of the above, would not have been possible without the support and guidance from the Irish FA’s Geoff Wilson, Alfie Wylie and Morris Corrin.

When asked what her vision for women’s football in Northern Ireland was, Elaine responded: “There are so many opportunities within the women’s game that I would encourage girls to get involved. You don’t have to be a fantastic player; there are also refereeing and coaching options available.

"The NIWFA has made huge strides to ensure women’s football is now an important part of social and active development. The clubs are interested in all aspects of health and fitness.”

The success of the NIWFA under Elaine and her colleagues, and the work they do in promoting the women’s game ensures that 2010 will be another successful season.