Women deserve a level playing field

Weird Wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

Aisling Frawley of Wexford Youths in action during their recent Continental Tyres Women’s National League match against UCD Waves
Aisling Frawley of Wexford Youths in action during their recent Continental Tyres Women’s National League match against UCD Waves

We need to talk about women. Or to be more specific, women's sport.

There's plenty of it out there and participation numbers are growing year on year, although some decrepit dinosaurs would have you believe that our women-folk should be at home tending to the housework and be only rolled out for ladies' day at the Curragh.

I was watching England's slightly fortuitous 2-0 win over Spain in the Women's European Championships on Channel 4 on Sunday evening. I say fortuitous because with the game on a knife-edge at 1-0 the referee correctly awarded a penalty to the Spaniards only to then bizarrely change her mind.

Fair play to the English channel for showing the tournament, even if many of the games are consigned to the backwaters of More 4, hidden in the undergrowth like a discarded, rusty fidget spinner that's fallen out of favour.

In the main the Irish media merely pays lip service to women's sport, normally reserving coverage for the once a year big days, or sitting up and taking notice when a team garners a bit of success, the Irish rugby team being a case in point.

Of course, it could be argued that broadcasters largely ignore our sporting women because the public interest just isn't there. Although it could be equally argued that more coverage creates more interest and attendances and viewing figures would grow as a result.

The phenomenal outpouring of support for boxer Katie Taylor surely shows that it's more about talent than gender when it comes to generating a following.

When the national football team had their recent high-profile spat with the FAI, suddenly women's sport shifted centre-stage and our national airwaves were filled with rightful indignation that players could be treated in such a despicable manner.

However, as predictably as night follows day, the media then went back to largely ignoring women's soccer when the ink had barely dried on the back pages and the sports newsreaders had just finished clearing their throats.

I'm lucky enough to get paid for the privilege of attending Continental Tyres Women's National League matches.

If I was working in some other profession would I part with my hard-earned to go to games? Absolutely.

Local newspapers across the country provide a great platform for ladies' games, but on a national level the media need to do more.

At present generally the best that can be hoped for is a few column inches occasionally, and coverage on television or radio when finals day comes around, although TG4 have to be commended for their commitment to ladies' football and Gaelic games in general.

Of course, the powers-that-be in the media game love it when they can kick-off their sports bulletin with an emotionally-charged tale of how Nina Carberry or Katie Walsh defied the odds to win at the Cheltenham or Punchestown festivals, when their exploits are usually disregarded for the rest of the year outside of the niche publications.

After absorbing the intriguing Euro 2017 match between England and Spain, I then switched over to the Sunday Game, which ran from 9.30 to 11.15 p.m., and after extensive highlights of the hurling quarter-finals, both of which had already been aired live, and the football qualifiers, they eventually got around to showing a sliver of camogie, shortly after the clock had ticked past 11.

It was given the princely sum of 13 minutes, a number that may be lucky for some but not those putting in blood, sweat and tears on training grounds in the hope of achieving Croke Park glory.

Actual highlights accounted for a tiny portion of that measly segment, so those involved with teams would have every reason to feel aggrieved at the dearth of coverage.

However, there was some good news when a beaming Des Cahill reminded us at the end of the show that the camogie quarter-finals on Saturday, August 5, will be broadcast live on RTE television.

It's certainly a step in the right direction. Now the station just need to show the occasional Women's National League game, a bit of ladies' football or a smattering of hockey and it would be another small but significant stride towards a level playing field.

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