Niall Doherty is director of sport at Bancroft’s School in Essex after 13 years teaching PE at Stoke Newington School in Hackney, London.
The 36-year-old, originally from County Derry in Northern Ireland. moved to London to train as a PE teacher in 2004 and says: “My closest friendships have been made in the sporting arena and I truly believe in the lasting personal, social and physical benefits that sport can give to young people that will remain with them throughout their adult lives.”
What school (s) did you go to?
Loreto College, Coleraine in Northern Ireland. Great school. Very fond memories.
What’s your earliest sporting memory?
Winning sports boy of the year award at our primary school sports day as a small P4 (year 3) pupil and being too skinny to hold the large trophy up for photographs.
Who were your sporting heroes growing up?
Bruce Lee (I know he’s a movie star but he got me into karate), John Barnes, Anthony Tohill (Derry GAA legend), Prince Naseem Hamed, and Iron Mike Tyson.
What are your best sporting memories of school?
Our school was renowned for its academic successes rather than its sporting achievements so it was amazing when I captained our sixth form football team to the Coleraine and District League in 1999.
What are your worst sporting memories of school?
Witnessing a team mate getting a horrific injury playing in a Gaelic football match. Let’s just say it involved studs, testicles and stitches.
Can you recall a memorable sporting teacher?
Yes, I looked up to all my PE teachers and sports coaches at school and they really inspired me to do my best at all times. Mr Smith, Mrs McCullough and Mr O’Neill were particularly memorable.
What sports do you play these days?
I’ve become quite hooked on golf in recent years, which is strange considering I hated the game when I was younger. I still play five-a-side football and enjoy skiing and mountain walking.
In what other ways do you stay healthy?
I go to the gym (not as often as I should) and try to eat healthily most of the time. I think it’s important to have a balance and I don’t worry about calorie counting as long as I know I’m keeping active and eating the right types of food, most of the time anyway.
What is your favourite sporting memory?
Being part of a football tour of Belgium and Luxembourg with Northern Ireland U16 football squad in 1996. Great times with a fun bunch of players and I still keep in touch with several of the squad to this day.
What’s been your most embarrassing sporting moment?
I gave away a penalty against Manchester United in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup in 1997. It was a very badly timed challenge and I had no objections that is was a penalty. It was also in the first five mins of the match and we really capitulated after that, losing 6-1.
What’s your biggest sporting bugbear?
I really hate play acting, especially in football, and how the top players and teams surround referees to try to sway decisions. I think it sends out the wrong message to younger fans and that football as a game could learn so much from rugby in terms of honesty and respect. Also people who look to blame others (for defeat), like the referee, team mates, or the coach rather than looking at themselves first and foremost..
When was the last time you cried at a sporting event?
I’m fairly level-headed and don’t get too emotional when it comes to sport, at least when other people are around so it was probably when Toto Schillachi knocked the Republic of Ireland out of the World Cup in 1990.
Which three sports people would you like to have around for dinner and why?
Rory McIlroy so I could plead with him to stop missing the cut at the Irish Open when I’ve flown over from London for the weekend to watch him. It’s happened twice now. Then I’d tell him that I still love him really and ask him to help fix my big slice with the driver. Muhammed Ali because of the amazing things that this man has done inside and outside the ring. It would be incredible to sit back and listen to some of his stories. Finally a pub lunch with George Best and I think I’d have to clear my schedule for the next day or two.
MY SPORTING LIFE