The year of the woman in Irish sports

Kathleen Keane

2021 has been hailed as ‘the year of the woman’ in Irish sport. Three Irish women were named in the top 5 most admired athletes in Teneo’s Sports and Sponsorship Index 2021. 

Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington topped the poll with 16% respectively, as Rachel Blackmore followed with 9%. Taylor, Harrington and Blackmore are leading the way for women’s sports in terms of visibility on a national and international stage. 

20% of respondents voted Kellie Harrington’s gold medal win at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as the top Irish Sporting Achievement of the past 12 months. 

According to Her Sport, 60% of Irish people wish to see more visibility of women in sport. In 2019, 64% of Irish medals won in international competitions were by female athletes, however, women received 6% of all national sports media coverage. 

Dublin teenager Katie Sheldon has taken the world of darts by storm as a National Singles, World Singles and All Ireland darts champion.  She says that she has had no issues playing a sport that she loves as a result of  her gender. 

Speaking to The College View she said, “I think I’ve had an equal opportunity while playing darts. I play in pub leagues with men and it’s no issue.” She feels that there is no animosity due to her gender and that she is “more than welcome to play.” 

Katie believes that the last number of years have been “a huge eye-opener” for ladies, particularly in her sport. 

“We have been given opportunities to share stages with the biggest professionals in sport, which is amazing and spectators can see that women can put it up against men,” she added. 

Katie’s philosophy is that women need to take every chance they get and run with it, “if we don’t take chances we are offered, they might not always be there in the future.”

December 2020 saw the amalgamation of the Women’s Gaelic Players Association and the Gaelic Players Association to work towards a more equal future. The first milestone they achieved was successfully securing equal grant funding for female GAA players. 

Previously, the government grant of €3.7 million paid out to support inter-county players, female players received just €700,000 while their male counterparts received €3 million of the total budget. 

According to an article in Her Sport, “effectively, taxpayer money was being used to fuel inequality – 81% of every euro going to a man while 19% to a woman.” 

Clodagh McManamon, the 2021 captain of the Mayo Ladies GAA team spoke to The College View about her experience as an inter-county player. 

“Women are represented well in our sport but there’s always room for improvement. Every year it’s getting better and it’s important that it keeps going that way until it’s a level playing field (pardon the pun!) with our male counterparts,” she said. 

Clodagh acknowledged the role that TG4 have played in the growth of ladies football over the years by broadcasting the big games, league games and group championship games live and on the TG4 player. She thinks this is a great opportunity for younger girls to watch the game being played at its highest standard. 

McManamon believes that there is still a considerable gap in advertising between men and women in sports. This can be seen in newspaper coverage where the mens All Ireland football final gets a ten page spread, and  the ladies football team would get a two page spread. 

“But it’s obvious that there is a lot more advertising of the game when you see over 50,000 spectators at the ladies All Ireland football final, but we need to get that to 80,000,” she said. 

Clodagh spoke about her club football team, Burrishoole. She feels lucky to be part of a club where the senior ladies team receive the same resources as the male senior team and receive equal treatment. 

Teneo Managing Director, Kellie O’Keefe said that we will look back on 2021 as the year women’s sport made the big breakthrough after years of knocking on the door. 

She proceeded to acknowledge the fact that the Irish public voted three women as 2021’s most admired athletes. She described how this showed “the appetite, understanding and appreciation of women’s sports that’s out there.” 

In the past number of years, it is clearly evident that the landscape for females in Irish sports has turned a corner to become a more equal and inclusive space for all genders.  

Kathleen Keane

Image Credit: Pixabay