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Mark's story

Mark knew from a young age that he wanted to be involved in sport. “For as long as I can remember, Dad and I would go down to the football pitch every Sunday,” he started. “And this was a pitch where sheep were running around, there was no goal post and the grass was up to your knees. I think that because I was involved in sport from a young age, it was all I wanted to do.”

And he has certainly made his name in the Gaelic football world, helping to take his home county, Tyrone, to the All-Ireland finals in 2018 where they took on Dublin at Croke Park.

From the sports pitch to the classroom

And now Mark is looking forward to inspiring the next generation as he trains to be a Primary School teacher with Liverpool Hope. “So many qualities tie in from sport to the classroom. From having respect to working together, it feels like a natural move,” he said as he started talking about his studies. “And I’ve always wanted to be a PE teacher. Always. From day one.”

But the road to teaching hasn’t always been smooth for Mark. “I didn’t get the grades I needed at A Level, so it meant that I had to go a different route. I ended up studying Sports Science in Northern Ireland and I knew straight away that I was going to need to do a Postgraduate course to go into teaching.”

He continued, “Hope was actually the only interview I went to over in the UK. I’m really lucky to have got in. It’s just a stunning university… like something out of a film.”

Hands-on Experience

And during his time at Hope, Mark was able to get hands-on experience as a teacher at two different placements throughout his studies. “’Daunting’ is definitely the word I would use to describe my first couple of weeks teaching,” he started. “I’d never even been in a teaching environment before I came to Hope, but the support you get from your lecturers has really helped to build my confidence and you do pick things up really quickly.”

He continued, “Placement is the only way to learn, I’d say. You need to actually be out teaching – you learn so much more!”

‘A miniature family…’

And outside of his studies, Mark was able to let off steam with his other passion – Gaelic Football – playing with the Liverpool Hope Men’s Gaelic team several times a week. “Playing is such a release from school work. There are some great facilities at Hope Park and we train on the 3G every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s great, especially if you’re moving over here by yourself like I did – you have a group of friends straight away; they’re like a miniature family.”

Looking forward

With his PGCE year drawing to a close when we spoke to him, Mark was looking forward to the future. “I can’t wait to graduate and start teaching properly,” he said. “I think that, in the long run, I would also love to start coaching Gaelic football. It’s been such a huge part of my life and I haven’t really had the chance to explore this yet. When you play for your county, training is so intense so you rarely get time to focus on much else. But once I’ve hung up my boots, I would love to combine the teaching skills I’ve picked up at Hope with coaching the next generation of Gaelic players.”