Women’s football is on the up across Northern Ireland – and has now inspired a unique novel, due out later this year.
Lottie the Raven has been written by local broadcaster and DJ David ‘Rigsy’ O’Reilly, inspired by his work co-founding (with his wife Lisa) and coaching the Belfast Ravens, who have two teams in the NIWFA despite only forming in 2017.
“I’ve always wanted to write a novel for young people” Rigsy explained “but never had a good enough story or an idea. The Ravens – and the NIWFA in general, inspired Lottie the Raven.”
“It’s about a young girl who plays for an imaginary under 16s version of our team” he continues. “She’s outrageously good at football – but a pushy dad and a bully teammate are putting her off playing. She’s also a bit socially awkward and accident prone and more interested in normal teenage life like trying to talk to a boy she likes or just avoid embarrassing situations.
“Then Northern Ireland – as well as a load of big teams – all want her to play for them – so she sort of has to make a decision.”
The novel is available to preorder now via Kickstarter ahead of a proper launch in October.
Rigsy admits the inspiration from the book not only came from his coaching of Belfast Ravens but also his own experiences growing up.
He said: “I had a weird time as a teenager, always getting into stupid scrapes, trying to deal with bullies and generally being a bit awkward. I’ve definitely drawn on my experiences – and poor Lottie has ended up in a bunch of the same crazy situations that I did back in the day. That said, I guess I’m also a bit like her dad – a football obsessive who’s a bit too pushy albeit well meaning. When he’s not making awful dad jokes and embarrassing his daughter….”
Woman’s football has really taken off across the country – and the NIWFA has gone from four to six senior divisions in just two seasons. The IFA are aiming to double the number of registered female players from 1600 to 3200 over the next four years while the under 17, under 19 and senior women national teams are all making waves.
Rigsy hopes the book will propel the women’s game even further and said the book is suitable for all ages.
“Everyone has been so encouraging and the feedback amongst a young focus group and some others who have read an early draft has been incredible – I’ve been blown away by it all. I’m told it’s perfect for 10-14 year olds but that there’s plenty of stuff in there for readers of all ages.”
As for how well the novel will do, Rigsy is optimistic. “It’s very hard to make money with a book like this but that’s not what this was ever about. I loved writing this novel and did so during a weird time in my life – it was a real form of therapy for me. I’m really proud of it.
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“I also wanted to shine a light on women’s football. Working with the Ravens has become a big part of my life and seeing how hard the team work, the friendships formed and going through all the drama of wins and (mostly) defeats with such a motivated bunch of players – it’s been such a buzz and something more and more people should get involved with.”
You can preorder Lottie the Raven now via Kickstarter.