“You are not defeated when you lose, you are defeated when you quit”

Tuesday November 17th 2015

Name: Kayleigh O’Neill

Age: 20

Home: Cookstown

Summer Camp: Omagh 2014, 2015

Volunteering role: Fun Leader and Fun Element Co-ordinator


What motivated you to volunteer at our Omagh Summer Camp?

Two years ago when I saw the Summer Camp advertised I read up on Michaela Foundation. I instantly knew that this was something special and I wanted to be a part of. So I filled in my application form and lucky for me I got selected.  At my first Summer Camp I had a life changing experience. I got my eyes opened and discovered my faith on a whole new level. I made an amazing bunch of friends, whom I know will be lifelong.
After my positive experience at my first camp I had to re-apply for a second year. I couldn’t believe it when I got selected for Fun co-ordinator this year. I was very thankful that I was trusted with this responsibility. I didn’t think that it would be possible but this year topped last year’s experience. Once again, another top class week had with more friends for life made.


Please sum up your volunteering experience in one sentence.

A life changing, insightful week filled with laughter, fun and faith that has left me with memories I will treasure forever and friends for life.


We love your Michaela Foundation inspired dart’s jersey. Tell us a little more about it and why you specifically selected this design.

The idea began last year when I reached the TV stages of the NI open, I walked onto the stage to the MF Summer Camp anthem ‘Do Life Big’. When I came home ideas started to circulate in my head of how I could represent Michaela Foundation more if I were to ever make TV stages again.  That’s when the idea of a new shirt with the Michaela Foundation logo displayed on it came into my head. I knew that I had a very busy year ahead of me and I would be going to a lot of competitions so I would be able to wear the shirt to a lot of different places and show it off to a wide variety of people from all over.


 When I got the go ahead to display the logo on my shirt it was the designing that became the difficult part. I knew that I wanted to have a bright and colourful shirt. I took to the internet searching for designs and when I finally saw a design I liked I had to think of what colours I wanted to incorporate into it, this is when I turned to my Michaela Foundation camp jersey for inspiration. I took the five element colours and applied them to the design I had in mind. I also added Life Without Limits to the collar just like the camp jerseys.
When I saw the final design I couldn’t have been happier, I knew it was a design that unless you knew about the Foundation you wouldn’t realise what it represented. Therefore, I had a lot of people ask me how I came up with the design to which I had a very lengthy reply to tell them all about the foundation and my camp experience.


When did you start playing darts? What inspired you to take up darts in particular?

From a very young age darts has been a key part of my life, I have been playing on a proper dartboard from the age of roughly 6. It was natural for me to pick up darts as both my parents play darts and my mummy has also represented Northern Ireland at all levels in the past 5 years. They were always practicing in the house and I wanted to have a go to, so they set up a dartboard beside theirs so we could all practice together. My stand out memory from my very young career was when I went to watch the World Matchplay to watch all the professionals in action and I also got the opportunity to practice with the then world number 1; Peter Manley. I remember him telling me that I had great potential and he told me hints and tips of how to improve my game, from that day I had the motivation to strive for all my darting goals. I made my first NI team at the age of 12 and ive been playing competitively for NI ever since.


What’s your training schedule like?

I don’t have a very structured training schedule as I lead a very busy life, with university and other volunteering commitments, however I do ensure that I get at least one hours practice every night.
I also play League darts every Friday night, and county darts once or twice every month and then I have all other competitions on any free Saturdays and Sundays. All these darts matches are very important as my county matches go towards my ranking at the end of year however I do consider my league and county as practice sessions for the World and European tournaments I compete in throughout the year.


You’ve had an extremely busy (and successful) year in darts. Please tell us about it.

Starting from November 2014…

  • In November 2014 I became the youngest every Northern Ireland player to reach the final of the Northern Ireland open. My semi final and final matches were both televised live on Eurosport.
  • January 2015- I reached the Semi finals of the Senior Northern Ireland Individuals
  • March 2015- I reached the final of the Senior Northern Ireland Masters
  • May 2015 – I competed on the U21 NI team at the Youth Friendship Cup which has teams from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • June 2015 – My county team won the County League for the 7th consecutive year
  • My county team also won the County Knockout Cup (i.e Championship)
  • I finished the season ranked as the number 2 Senior lady in Northern Ireland, which qualified me to play and the World Masters, the World Cup and the Six Nations.
  • October 2015  – I competed in England in the Lakeside World Championship Qualifiers, I was         unfortunate at this tournament as I missed out on qualifying for the Lakeside World Championships by two games.
  • Also in England I competed in the Winmau World Masters tournament again I had no luck as I missed out on the televised stages by two games.
  • In Turkey I competed in the World Cup of darts where I recorded a top 16 finish in the individuals and the Northern Ireland team also came away with a total of 5 bronze medals.
  • November 2015 – I reached the Quarter final of the Northern Ireland Open Pairs event, unfortunately we met the 9 times world champion and her partner at this stage.

Next on the calendar will be

  • International match NI vs ROI
  • NI Gold cup
  • NI Individuals
  • NI masters
  • NI classic
  • All Irelands and
  • the 6 Nations


Any advice for young people with sporting aspirations?

“You are not defeated when you lose, you are defeated when you quit.”

If you truly love something, don’t give up on it if it doesn’t go your way. If I were to count the number of dart matches I have lost in the past it would probably outweigh the number I have won. It was the losing that has made me into a dart player that is able to go out now and compete and beat the world’s best. Every loss is a lesson that I value.

For me, when I first started properly competing I was nervous and anxious about telling people about my darts. I was too afraid of what they might say, how they might judge me. I quickly realised that this was something I had a passion about and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of it. If my friends are really my friends they would accept me for me. So if you find yourself in a similar situation remember that life is too short to worry about what others say and think about you, go have fun, do what you love and give them something to talk about.

Lastly forget about the risk and take the fall, if its what you want to do then it’s worth it all.


What’s been your greatest personal achievement to date? (Sporting or otherwise)

It’s a tossup between 3;

  • Receiving a LGFA Ulster Colleges All Star Award 2014
  • Reaching the World Youth Final in 2013,
  • Being the youngest ever NI player to reach the Northern Ireland open Final in 2014 which was televised live on Eurosport.


Who’s your sporting role model?

General: Serena Williams

Everyone knows Serena Williams as probably the greatest ladies player there is and possibly will ever be. Serena is an inspirational to all with her on court work ethic, drive and determination. However for me it is Serena’s off court work that for me is more inspirational.

Serena takes time out of her busy tennis schedule to do things for the greater good of others. In 2008, as part of the Serena Williams Foundation’s work, Williams helped to fund the construction of the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni, Kenya. The Serena Williams Foundation also provides university scholarships for underprivileged students in the United States. Serena, along with her sister Venus, is a supporter and contributor of First Serve Miami, a foundation for youth who want to learn tennis but are socially and economically challenged. She has been an International Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF since 2011 and has helped launch UNICEF’s Schools for Asia campaign. Serena also supports at least 15 other notable worldwide charities.

Serena Williams of the US celebrates after victory against Russia's Maria Sharapova during the women's singles final on day thirteen of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PAUL CROCK -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USEPAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

Darting: Frances Hoenselaar

Frances had a long term rivalry with Trina Gulliver! For over a decade Frances and Trina dominated world darts however when it came to the main Lakeside World Championships Trina always got the upper hand. Hoenselaar was the runner up 5 times to Trina however she never gave up, in 2009 Frances got her reward when she won the tournament outright beating Trina in the final! Frances’ never give up attitude is truly inspirational for not only me but for all dart players in the world.



Favourite quote:

I love quotes so I found it hard to pick just one, so I narrowed it down to four,

  • “Remember to not be Ordinary” Phoebe Dahl
  • “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sun beams and you will always look beautiful” Roald Dahl
  • “God does not require us to succeed, he only requires us to try” Mother Teresa
  • “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child” Forest Witcraft.


Favourite things to do:  

Apart from  my darts, my favourite things include volunteering. I try to work with as many youth groups in the community as possible. I take my local cub scout group and take the u8’s and 10s at my club and give a helping hand to the u12s if I’m needed. I also keep an eye out for any other community groups that may need, I would try to help out providing it suits with my schedule.
I also enjoying Scouting and in July 2016 I will take part in a Challenge called the Explorer Belt that will involve me and my partner having 10 days to walk roughly 300km in a European country or 2 using only a map and compass to get from one place to another while living on a low budget and sleeping in a tent every night.  I also love playing ladies football and spending time with family and friends.