Sara McFadden, Ireland’s first vision impaired rally navigator.

Sara Mc Fadden became Ireland’s first visually Impaired rally navigator when she and her dad competed in the Imokilly Mini Stages rally in July 2018. Since then she has proven that your disability truly does not define you and that if you have a goal and you set your mind to it then nothing can stand in your way, taking the motto “The only thing worse then being blind is having no vision”

  • What’s your first memory of sport as a child?

Niall Maguire (my rally hero) giving me his winning hat from my home rally when I was around 4 or 5.

  • How did you first become involved in sport?

My parents were both competing in rallying since I was born so I was always brought along to events with them, so I suppose there wasn’t much hope for me to not become involved.

  • What sports did you try as a child?

Everything, when I was born my parents were told that due to my vision I would never be able to play sport, so they always encouraged me to try everything so at this stage I’d say that there isn’t a sport I have not tried, but camogie was my favourite and I played up until minor level with both my club and county until I took a back seat to focus on my studies and rallying.

  • What decided you to settle on your chosen sport?

I suppose being brought up around rallying it was always a part of my life and after competing in my first event in the Imokilly Mini Stages Rally I became hooked.

  • Who has had the most impact on your sporting career?

My Dad, he has always been so supportive of everything I have wanted to do in life and to be able to compete alongside him makes the sport all the more enjoyable.

  • What female do you most admire in the world of sport?

Rosemary Smith, For years she competed in Motorsport as one of the of few women in a very male dominated sport at the time and fought so hard to get some absolutely amazing results and did some truly amazing things which have paved a pathway for women such as myself in motorsport today.

  • Outside of sport what do you do in your leisure time?

I have just completed my leaving cert exams so between sport and study I didn’t have a lot of time for much else but I love to cook and I also love to give back to the people help me so when I can, I volunteer with the NCBI (National Council for the Blind Ireland) to assist children with visual impairments. They have done so much for me over the years that I’m really glad I am now in a position to repay the favour.

  • What is the last movie you went to see? What is your favourite movie of all time?

The last movie I went to see was needless to say the new Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. I’m a sucker for a rom com but my favourite movie of all time is Dirty Dancing.

  • What music do you listen to?

Absolutely everything, my playlist is so varied, one minute it’s country and the next its pop but I am a huge Nathan Carter fan.

  • Are you a reading fan? If so what are you currently reading?

I’m not a big reading fan personally but I do read occasionally and the book I am currently reading is Rosemary Smith’s “Driven” which is the story of her life and the challenges she had to overcome as a women in a male dominated sport.

  • Do you follow any sports stars on social media? If so who?

Yes I follow a lot of sports stars on social media but my favorites are possible Craig Breen and Paul Nagle the Irish WRC stars as they do such great coverage from the events they compete in giving people an amazing perspective of what it’s like to be competing at an elite level.

  • Forget about your sporting diet for a moment? Your favourite meal when you breakout?

Having both my parents as chefs I’m very spoilt for choice at home but my favorite food is a toss up between Spaghetti Carbonara and Steak and Chips 

  • Who do you most admire in your own sport?

I’m going to have to say Craig Breen and Paul Nagle as they worked their way up the ranks to reach the most elite level of the sport and despite all the challenges that have been thrown their way over the past year they have fought back to prove that anything is possible if you set your mind to it and you work hard enough. And I am also extremely grateful for the support and advice that Paul has give to me during my journey.

  • Do you still play other sports for fun?

Not as much as I would like to. During the last couple of years I let other sports take a back seat to focus on school but I, hoping that that will change soon.

  • What advice would you give to young girls & boys to encourage them to participate in sport?

The best advice I could give young people is that they should never let anything stand in the way of them achieving their goals and I’m living proof that If you have a dream then you should let nothing stand in your way from achieving them. “You should never be afraid of failure, but you should be afraid of the things you will miss out on if you don’t even try”

  • What has been your biggest sporting achievement?

I have an all-Ireland silver medal for camogie which I won with mayo. And we are currently fighting for a podium position in 4 rally championships.

  • How do you cope with (a) injuries; (b) other setbacks?

Growing up with a visually impairment meant that on a daily basis I had to overcome challenges and setbacks so in sport I took the same motto and I take whatever comes my way and figure a way around it as it’d what I love.

  • What do your family make of your success?

I have been very lucky to have all my family by my side and supporting through all the highs and the lows which means the absolute world to me. All though it does make it all the more special to have my dad by my side in the car.

  • What does sport mean to you?

To me sport is my life, it always has been, and I hope that it always will be. Sport has already allowed me to do things I never imagined I would get to do including being named Mayo Young Person of the year for 2018 and 2019 to name but of a few of the awards that I have been honoured with over the last 12 months and I’m only 18, I can’t even imagine what lies in store in the future which is why I have chosen to pursue sport and business in college.

Interview courtesy of the Federation of Irish Sport.

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