Inspiring the Future: Laura Basquel
Laura Basquel

Inspiring the Future: Laura Basquel

A POSITIVE role model can show young people how to live their lives with integrity, honesty and determination among other things.

Growing up, and especially during those teenage years, it can be very easy to get lost in the haze of needing to figure out what you want to do and who you want to be.

Finding that one person to back you can be everything at a young age.

“Looking back I probably wasted so much of my time and my energy worrying about what other people thought of me, having negative thoughts about myself, negative self belief you know and just being really hard on myself,” reflects Laura Basquel.

“I struggled with my body image, like a lot of teenage girls, confidence and that creeped into all areas of my life.

Laura Basquel, from Knocklyon, who won player of the series in TG4’s gaelic football show, the Underdogs is also a doctor at Tallaght University Hospital

“It creeped into my performance on the pitch, academics and I suppose looking back, I’d just say that all girls go through this.

“That’s not to belittle what you’re going through, it just means that everyone is struggling and all you can do is control what you can control.

“Be unapologetically yourself because the people who love you will see you and support you. If anyone doesn’t, don’t let their negativity take away from you.

“Be you and be the best you can, that’s all anyone is doing in life – the best they can.

“Focus on yourself and I think one of the biggest things is to be kind to yourself, allow yourself to have struggles and allow yourself to have bad days.

“I found out that was something I wouldn’t let myself do. It’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to not be okay but keep going.

“You can feel that these are the most important things in your life when you’re 16/17, but it gets better and you figure out who you are along that journey.

“I feel like it’s only in the past year that I’ve turned a corner and believed in myself a bit more.

“I’ve realised who is important in my life and what’s important, and learned to focus on those things.”

Laura Basquel was recently named Player of the Series on TG4’s hit gaelic football show, the Underdogs.

Laura Basquel

During her time on the show, Basquel made it through the trials and several cuts to reach the panel and eventually, start at centre-back against All-Ireland Ladies Football Champions, Meath.

Laura is a Ballyboden St Enda’s club player and helped her team to the Junior B Championship in 2019.

After that, she put the application in for the Underdogs and embarked on an incredible six-month journey of friendship, connection and aspiring to reach an intercounty standard of football with the Underdogs.

“It was a big step for me, despite being a chatty person, I wouldn’t put myself forward for a lot of things,” Laura details.

“I felt proud of myself for even putting it through… in May it started up then and it’s been trials, weekends away and it has been the best experience of my life I think.

“On the show you can even see that every one of the girls has a different story to tell and what I’ve realised is everyone has struggles.

“That doesn’t mean your struggles are any less but you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

“It’s been a real eye-opener in meeting girls from all over the country, coming together to play sport, to play football – it’s been amazing.”

Laura Basquel

Throughout Laura’s story, a common thread is how positive of an impact sport has been and influenced nearly every aspect of her life.

In the early school years, Laura attended St Colmcille’s National School in Knocklyon and flourished, with the school enabling it’s students to prioritise by curricular and extra-curricular activity.

It was here that Laura got to step foot on the hallowed turf of Croke Park, when she helped St Colmcille’s to the Corn Austin Finn at the prestigious Cumann na mBunscol finals.

To this day, it remains the one and only time the talented gaelic footballer has played at the venue.

“I don’t think you realise at that age how big it is and how rare it is to get a chance to play in Croke Park,” Laura enamours.

“It doesn’t come around often, I’d look back on it with very fond memories and I’m certainly very lucky to have had the opportunity.

“Even meeting girls from around the country with the Underdogs and we were talking about it one day, they were all in disbelief.

“We all only dream of playing in Croke Park.”

In school, Laura was a self-described “chatterbox” who loved to be involved with things such as plays, music and sport within school.

“I was always a very good student, I like to follow the rules and not go outside the box too much,” Basquel says with a chuckle.

That upbeat natural tendency to “talk to anyone” enabled Laura to transition into life at Sancta Maria College with general ease – like water off a ducks back as they say.

However, after making new friends and settling into her new secondary school life, things took a sharp turn in a totally different direction for Laura and her family.

“We moved to the States in second year,” Laura recalls.

“My dad got a job in America and me, my little sister, my brother and mum moved over to the States for second and third year.

“It was around Christmas 2009 and my dad was flying over and back for work, and we just decided that look, we’re going to move over, give it a year and see how we go.

“It’s funny because you’ve just started in a new school four-months-ago and you think you’re not that settled.

“But I remember being so upset that I’m leaving these friendships that have just formed behind, after finally finding my feet and you’re being thrown into a new environment again.

“I found that transition a bit harder.

“You’re 13 instead of 12, you’re a bit more insecure and a bit unsure of yourself and then you’ve to go from wearing a uniform in an all girls school to a mixed school over in America, wearing your own clothes.

“Those little things you don’t think of but when you’re 13, they sure do matter.”

Being from Knocklyon, even by age 13, Laura had become embedded in her community and had so many connections whether it be through family, her GAA Club or school.

That family connection is something that Laura refers to a lot, and especially “being from a big family”.

Laura comes from a family of five children, four daughters and one son of Gerry Basquel and Rose Anne Basquel.

The Basquel’s are synonymous with gaelic football in Knocklyon and it’s no secret that they are outright Mayo-fanatics, living behind enemy lines in Dublin GAA territory.

Well, it’s not quite enemy lines as they themselves are Dubs, but Laura’s father Gerry, and his siblings, have the Green and Red of Mayo in their heart.

The Basquel’s are natives of Mountbrown, Aughagower, just outside Westport, and have set up camp around the Knocklyon area.

And so, growing up, every Bank Holiday Weekend, mid-term break and Mayo home game, Laura and her cousins would embark on these country-wide excursions to the west coast with their parents.

Laura is first cousins of Colm and Ryan Basquel, two Boden stars who are part of the Dublin intercounty football set-up.

“We’d pull on a Dublin jersey to support the boys 100 percent and we have done since Colm’s been playing Under-21s, we’re always their biggest supporters,” Laura fondly remembers.

“My dad and his brothers and sisters, they’re just fanatical Mayo supporters.

“There’s being from Mayo and then there’s eating, sleeping and breathing Mayo football, it’s all they talk about so I don’t think we had a choice in the matter.

“We were only ever brought to Mayo games as a kid, never Dublin.

“We have a lot of good memories of Mayo matches over the years but when Dublin won five and six-in-a-row, I remember we were saying to dad ‘why couldn’t we have just supported Dublin?’.

“But as I said on the Underdogs, I won’t begrudge him.”

So when the five members of Laura’s family jetted off to San Jose in California, their support network was gone – just like that.

While Laura found that she had enough in common with the students in her new High School to get by, it didn’t really click fully for her until she picked up a sport.

After joining a soccer team and later picking up lacrosse, the young Irish girl abroad started to forge her way into new friend groups and found much more success settling in.

With a dilemma of whether to stay or go, the Basquel’s returned home with Laura re-enrolling in Sancta Maria.

“In Sancta Maria it was such a great place and I realised that if you have a good mentor or good teacher whose behind you, encouraging you, it can make you want to do well,” she says.

“You’re doing it for the teachers then as well as yourself, I was very fortunate to have some really good teachers that created a great environment in the classroom and it made everyone want to do better, to put their best work forward.

“That’s what made me love school life, which is unusual and rare because everyone just wants to get out of the classroom.

“But I liked studying, I liked improving. If I made a mistake, I liked to correct that and see myself getting better.”

When it came to that intensive process surrounding the state examinations, Laura found comfort in controlling what she could through structuring her days and weeks.

“The Leaving Certificate is such a long period of time, from the day you start in fifth year it is two-years of people reminding you, every single day, that you have this big exam,” the Underdogs star says.

“It’s very difficult to stay consistent for that long period of time. There is weeks and days when you feel like you can’t do it anymore, you’re like ‘oh my god when is it going to end’, you get fed up.

“It’s important that you take the break, take that rest.

“Sport, with football and everything, that was my time to let loose and relax, to take my mind off studies for awhile.

“That really kept me going, to refocus and push on.

“I think in Ireland we do really focus on the Leaving Cert but there is so much more and you’re not supposed to have everything figured out when you’re 18 – you’re not expected to have everything figured out.

“There is very different routes in life, you will figure out who you want to be and whatever path you take, that’s okay.”

During those hectic two weeks of exams in 2015, while keeping an eye on beating the amount of points her sister Cathy achieved, Laura wanted to prove to herself that she had the skills to do well.

And she did, achieving a whopping 590 points – enough to get her into University College Dublin to study Medicine.

“I probably lost myself a bit in first and second year of college and wouldn’t have put in as much energy in to my studies,” Laura admits.

“I would have struggled a lot with thinking that everyone there was so much smarter than me, some people might think that’s crazy after a great Leaving Cert but suddenly you feel like this small fish in a massive pond.

“I feel like that affected me quite a bit in the early years of college, I was really hard on myself because I liked doing really, really well in school and then I wasn’t top of the class – I struggled with that change.

“In third and fourth year, I kind of found myself again and got back to the things I was good at and the things I knew I could control.”

In May of 2021, Laura finally graduated – and with a first class honours degree in her back pocket – and embarked on a new journey after starting as an intern doctor in Tallaght University Hospital.

Over the last six-months working with patients in the hospital, Laura has been able to finally put her skills to use and help in the fight against COVID-19.

In gaelic football, her time with the Underdogs has empowered Laura to reach the standard she knew she was capable of and now togs out with the Senior team in Ballyboden.

If there is anything to take from Laura’s journey, it is to be kinder to yourself and to each other, you never know what somebody else is going through.

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