Bohemian Foundation expands programme into women’s prison
The Bohemian Foundation has expanded their Mountjoy Prison programme to now include the prison’s women’s wing, the Dochás Centre. When Governor O’Connor of Dochás was approached by Thomas Hynes on behalf of the Bohemian Foundation she accepted his offer to help the women in Dochás without hesitation. Governor O’Connor added, “the benefits of sport are well known and giving the women in Dochás an opportunity to be trained by coaches was very welcome.”
“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 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 for 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. Also, the girls who came in to play against the prisoners haven’t played football for nearly 10 years as well,” Conway said. “Just seeing people enjoy a game of football for what it is – running around, laughing and having a bit of craic – is great,” he added with a grin.
Watching on from the sideline, 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,” he added.
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 was 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 in 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’s about continuing their method of bringing the outside community into the prison. Breaking down the barriers and preconceived notions both sides may have about each other. The proof 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. 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” Coakley professed.
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 said 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. “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,” said Coakley.