After a long stint abroad, Fiola Foley, 40, returned to her hometown of Killorglin where she now works as Global PR Manager at komoot, a leading route planning and navigation app. Here she tells us about how she’s finding life in the Reeks District.
After somewhat a nomadic existence and two decades worth of living and working abroad, Fiola Foley decided it was time to return home. The 40-year-old left Killorglin for the USA at the tender age of 17 having been accepted on a full athletics scholarship and, after graduation, pursued her sport of rowing full time, attending training camps around Europe for much of the year as she went on to represent Ireland at World Championship and Olympic level.
Her career took her on to stints in Barcelona, Lima and Peru, followed by a decade in Switzerland as Global Head of Comms for the bike brand BMC. In 2014, 10 years after she hung up her oars, she returned to Ireland briefly to win the Irish National Championships alongside Killorglin superstar rower Monika Dukarska, setting an Irish course record along the way.
“I’d always loved my hometown and the surrounding Reeks District but I really wanted to travel when I was younger,” she recalls. “Over the years, I thought about the possibility of leaving Switzerland and returning home to spend more time with my family – but I didn’t want to compromise my career working in the cycling industry. Eventually the chance to work for komoot came up and I took it gladly.”
komoot allows its staff to work remotely – a concept that suited Fiola down to the ground: “It would finally let me spend time in Ireland with my family, while also having the freedom to indulge in my outdoor sports passions such as surfing and mountain biking, both here and in European neighbours such as France, Portugal and Spain.”
While Fiola still spends time abroad, her spirit for adventure is increasingly fulfilled in the immediate surrounds of her hometown. “I love that we are at the foothills of the mountains, with the coast too, yet we don’t have the issue with overcrowding and traffic congestion that most coastal and mountainous areas on mainland Europe have. The climate is a bit wilder here, so it doesn’t attract the sun worshippers,” she says.
Returning has also allowed her to join and work with a number of local organisations. “I’m involved with the Reeks District tourism initiative, the Southwest MTB Trail Advocacy group and I am an honorary member of the Killorglin Rowing Club,” she says. “I also hop in and out of some road and mtb cycling clubs and I have my network of local surfers tipping me off when there are waves worth getting my board waxed for.”
After such a long stint away, Fiola was surprised to find a more international flavour to Killorglin on her return. “There’s a thriving group of people coming back to the area, but also a lot more people coming to live here than before. The diversity of languages you hear in Aldi is quite astonishing!”
Those years abroad meant Fiola explored less of Ireland than she might have done – and she is using the opportunity of her return to explore her homeland a little more: “I was away for so many years, it’s really nice every now and then to discover a little bit more about your own country.”
The Bianconi – for typical local food: a famous mushroom soup, a legendary fresh mixed seafood platter and absolutely great service.
Giovanellis for food – ever wonder what Italian food with Irish-sourced produce would be like? Daniele is from northern Italy and creates Italian dishes with locally sourced fish and meat.
Sol y Sombra – a converted Protestant church and the perfect venue for some light tapas or for a fun group meal where group dynamics are tested when it comes to ordering! They regularly have live music and attract some pretty great Irish musical talent.
At the bottom of the hill in Killorglin, Falvey’s is my family’s local pub, Declan was my teacher in national school and Breda, his, wife was my basketball coach. Always a great atmosphere, sing-songs are commonplace, and expect it to be crowded on a Friday and Saturday night.
Read more stories from our Reflections on the Reeks series