Oliver Callan's conversation with Irish hockey star Nicci Daly is very much a chat of two halves. It starts – where else? – with the Irish hockey team and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 and then pivots to motorsport, which is, in many ways, the Daly family business.
If not for the small matter of the Coronavirus pandemic, Nicci Daly would be in Japan right now, along with the rest of the Irish hockey team, who qualified for their first-ever Olympics, only to have it pushed back by a year.
The World Silver Medal-winning team have just started back to training, having not wielded a stick in anger for four months. The delay, the lockdown and the absence of training for such a protracted period might have meant the Irish team would be at a disadvantage come 2021, but, Nicci told Oliver, everybody’s in the same boat and the postponement might actually turn out to be beneficial for Team Ireland:
"We’ve had a new coach come in who’s only been with us maybe less than a year before the pandemic set in and to have another year with Seán as the coach and to hone in on his way of playing and his style of play can only really benefit us I think going into next year and, you know, gives that opportunity for any younger players to really kind of make their mark and I think it will just increase the level of the team overall, so, you know, I don’t think we’re at too much of a disadvantage."
The pandemic has at least allowed Nicci to spend more time with her family and – this is where the pivot happens – she told Oliver about her not-very-conventional upbringing and how she would spend a lot of time at Mondello Park as her dad was a racing driver.
"We were down there every weekend supporting him. And that’s pretty much where I developed a passion for motorsport and the motor industry."
It's a passion that has stayed with Nicci all her life. She studied Mechanical Engineering in IT Tallaght – where she was the only female student – and did a Masters in Motorsport Engineering in the US.
"I set up an organisation called Formula Female, which is to increase the female participation in motorsport, but not just motorsport, sort of in the motor industry itself. You know, you’re talking about drivers, engineers, mechanics."
Nicci wants more women to consider careers in all area of the motorsport industry and her pitch is, let’s be honest, pretty compelling:
"My office is the pit lane and I have these cars at 200MPH going past me down the race track and I just thought this is incredible, you know? More people need to know about this."
Another initiative Nicci set up is called the Go Girls Karting Initiative, which plans to introduce a thousand schoolgirls to karting and STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths) and is backed by an Irish motorsport company, CJJ Motorsports.