This weekend will see the opening exchanges in the Allianz football league throughout the country. In Newbridge at 2pm Mayo take on hosts Kildare in what will no doubt be an exciting clash. At exactly the same time just over 15 miles away in Carbury, the Kildare Ladies team start their own league campaign against another Connacht side, Galway.
One of these games is live on television and will command a hefty amount of column inches in all the national media. The other is the Ladies match. Galway and Kildare played out an thrilling Division Two semi-final in the 2013 campaign with Galway pipping their rivals by a single point yet as the two teams go face to face this time around, the media coverage for this game will be far less than they deserve.
Derval O’Rourke outlined some of the issues facing women’s sport in her excellent article in the Irish Examiner this week specifically concerning the lack of coverage in the media. While this is most certainly a huge problem, it must be pointed out as well that sometimes they are not helping themselves. The question remains, are the LGFA and their ilk doing enough to promote their games?
This weekend for example, Kildare, Cork, Laois, Waterford and Sligo Ladies teams kick off their league campaigns in their home counties in direct opposition to their male counterparts. The Cork Ladies, unarguably one of the finest Irish sports teams ever, throw-in at 2pm in Mallow against Mayo, while at the same time the men, under new manager Brian Cuthbert, take on Westmeath in Pairc Ui Rinn.
Sligo Ladies in Division Three play Leitrim at 2pm in the grounds of Sligo IT. Less than two miles away on the other side of the city their male counterparts take on Limerick. Waterford play Offaly in Pairc Dungarbhain a stone’s throw from Fraher field where Niall Carew’s side take on Clare. Laois face Donegal in Crettyard at 1pm, just over twenty-one miles from O’Moore Park where Laois play Donegal in an intriguing fixture at 2pm.
These are just some examples of the lack of thought behind fixing the Ladies National league fixtures at the same time as the men’s league gets into full swing. Would supporters not like an opportunity to see both teams play? How can you encourage new spectators to go to games when they are in direct competition with the much more widely publicised men’s matches? In Kildare, and no doubt in other counties, brothers and sisters will play at exactly the same time in games of equal importance. Is this fair on them or their families and friends?
These players sacrifice just as much as their male counterparts yet don’t see even close to anything near the recognition. Getting up at six o’clock in the morning to go to the gym before work or school, missing birthday’s, foregoing holidays, breaking their backs to get from work to training and for what? To go out and bust their guts in front of a handful of hardcore supporters who will themselves be missing out on other matches just to cheer them on?
None of the women who play at intercounty level or below go around demanding exposure for what they do, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it.
The GAA, the Camogie Association and the LGFA are doing sterling work at present to bring all three organisations under the same umbrella, and the sooner that happens the better, but until then surely there can be some common sense applied in terms of fixtures. Be it the individual county boards or the hierarchy in the LGFA, someone needs to see the light and either move games to a more convenient time that allows supporters take in both matches or seek to create a double-header where possible. Women’s GAA is growing every day in Ireland, the players who play for their counties are the type of role models that young women should be looking up to and deserve to be given a break by their own associations so they can get the recognition they so acutely deserve.