At the mention of one you automatically think of a court, thudding and a loud buzzer. The other brings to mind the grassy expanse of a field, long-range kicks and a good, hard shoulder.

At a glance (or maybe just for the uneducated like myself) basketball and Gaelic football may seem like very different sports. But, really, there are many similarities.

A number of players tog out in both; Kieran Donaghey a notable duel player during his Kerry football career is one.

Another such individual is Mayo’s Dayna Finn, who plays both basketball and football.

In fact, later this month the Maree Basketball Club woman is set to receive her first Irish senior women’s cap at the European Championship for small countries.

Having just returned from a minor injury, Dayna is focusing on basketball at present. But intends to get her football boots back on after the Europeans. For her, the crossover in skills between the two sports is a definite plus.

Dayna is from Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, and is a member of Maree Basketball Club.

“There are similarities between both, so it’s handy. A lot of the GAA teams in Ireland have basketball coaching, maybe one session a week. I know with Mayo we have a basketball coach,” says Dayna.

“A lot of the movements and your hand-eye coordination, that definitely does help and transfers across. Basketball would have quicker turns, whereas for football you need endurance. That would be the only difference.”

Family time

Hailing from Kiltimagh, Dayna comes from a very sporty family. Her mother and father both played football for Mayo, while her younger sister Hazel plays for the Mayo minors, as well as the Ireland under 18 basketball team and her brother Cillian plays football with Kiltimagh.

Having siblings at home during the lockdowns to kick and shoot with – in the absence of group training – was a great asset, explains Dayna. “It’s good to have Killian, a lad in the house, because they’ll push you that extra mile. You’ll definitely be getting a hit or a belt from them out in the garden. We’re competitive and Hazel as well is very competitive. It’s good and it’s bad – sometimes it’ll end great, other times it’ll go the other way,” laughs Dayna.

Also, with games on the backburner during lockdown, it made way for some family time of another nature.

Dayna feels promotion of female role models in sport needs to continue beyond the 20x20 campaign.

“We were only chatting recently about the fact that we never had Sunday dinner together as a family until lockdown because there was always a game or there was always something,” Dayna remarks. “As soon as we were back training, we were all having dinner at different times and back to reality, but it was great to get that little break as well.”

Women in sport

With the 20x20 campaign coming to prominence over the last number of years, women in sport have been more talked about than ever in Ireland. Dayna feels this promotion of female role models needs to continue.

When she was younger, the most visible athletes to lookup to were nearly always men.

“I know when I was younger we would have mainly looked up to men. There wasn’t the same awareness as there is now about women in sport. Even myself, I did a bit of coaching in the schools and it definitely does motivate young girls to be like, ‘I want to be like her.’ It does encourage them.

“A lot of younger girls will get to first year and give sport a break, there tends to be a drop-off. I think the 20x20 campaign did a really good job and it still is continuing to, but COVID put a stop to a lot of things. Women are definitely on the rise in sport.”

Boxing wouldn’t have been a sport I would have known a lot about until Katie Taylor. It doesn’t have to be a role model in your own sport

Dayna is of the opinion that role models transfer across sports. Someone competing in a different sport to what you’re primarily interested in could inspire you.

“I know for myself, the likes of Katie Taylor and all the footballers and basketballers older than me, they motivate me. Boxing wouldn’t have been a sport I would have known a lot about until Katie Taylor. It doesn’t have to be a role model in your own sport. You could be a swimmer and aspire to reach the level of Katie Taylor, a boxer.”

In the past couple of months, Dayna finished her degree in Spanish and geography at NUI Galway.

She is currently waiting for results and is hoping to go on to do a master’s in education, which will allow her to become a teacher.

But at the moment, none of this is in her thoughts in any significant way. She’s looking towards to Europeans with full focus.

How do you prepare for a game?

“I’m fairly straight forward; eat right and get a good night sleep. Sleep is my main thing, I’m like a granny when it comes to that. Before a game I tend to just be chilled and have a laugh. Once it hits the floor it’s straight into things. I’ll normally need to go to the toilet right when the ball is being thrown up. So if you see me pulling up my socks or something, I’m holding it in. I have no real rituals. I usually just chill out and close my eyes maybe.”

Read more

Living Life: it’s a matter of pride

Team talk with hockey player Chloe Watkins

Changing the game with 20x20 founder Sarah Colgan