‘In school, I never imagined I’d be touring the world’
Ronan Brady, county football champion, aerial acrobat and performer, Ireland’s Got Talent semi-finalist 2008
Ronan Brady: ‘Just because an option is safe, doesn’t mean it is right.’
“In school, I never imagined I’d be touring the world as a performer in a [cabaret] show like Riot, working alongside amazing artists like [drag queen] Panti Bliss. Back then, I took on as many practical subjects as I could, because I was good at engineering, technical graphics and metalwork and they would get me the points I needed. I struggled with some subjects and possibly should have done ordinary level for them.
I lived in a small town and I was good at sport. I played on the county team and it went to my head a little bit. [Gaelic football] took most of my time and was more important to me than school. I decided I was going to be county footballer. And I wanted to be a secondary school teacher because it meant I could still play at weekends and in the evenings.
I got into the University of Limerick where I studied to be a metalwork and technology teacher: it’s a course I recommended to my own students.
I really loved my time there. While at UL, I joined the Sigerson team and also played with Roscommon. I trained once a week with the Limerick Seniors instead of having to travel back to Roscommon twice.
I got injured playing football and I had to take a year out and rest – this can happen, of course. During this time, I joined an aerial training space in Carrick-on-Shannon and took on some classes. My instructor recommended that I go to the Irish Aerial Dance Festival, which is organised by Chantal McCormick and her Irish aerial dance theatre, Fidget Feet.
It’s not easy to build a career in this area and you really need time to give it a go. I was lucky: my girlfriend had a steady job and was very supportive. I asked people to bear with me while I tried to make it work. A little bit of part-time personal training helped get me on the ladder, and then the aerial dance really took off.
It’s strange: on the day of the Leaving Cert results, you might have a great plan in your head. For me, it was to become a teacher and play football. We won a Connacht championship but I knew it was unlikely we’d take the All Ireland. I had ticked all the boxes I wanted. So would I rinse and repeat – or do something else entirely? I took a 12-month career break from teaching, at the end of which the aerial dance was just taking off. I asked for another career break. I was turned down, so I resigned. And here I am now, making this living.
Just because an option is safe, doesn’t mean it is right. That said, I am glad I have the teaching degree to fall back on.”