The Linda Mellerick column: What a time to be a sportswoman in Ireland

The Linda Mellerick column: What a time to be a sportswoman in Ireland
Ireland players, from left, Roisin Upton, Bethany Barr and Chloe Watkins celebrate winning the penalty strokes and qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

THE rise in interest in women’s sport over the past few years has been incredible. 

This year in particular, the 20x20 campaign has really taken off. There can be so much negativity around social media but without it women’s sport wouldn’t have made such significant advances in recent times.

Even if the general public didn’t go to games, they caught glimpses of brilliance in various sports with moments captured and uploaded for thousands to view. Interest grew. 

One of those that springs to mind immediately is that of Peamount United player Stephanie Roche back in 2013 and her wonder goal. 

The response and the personal elevation of Stephanie Roche changed her life. She became runner up in the FIFA Puskas Award for international goal of the year. Unquestionably without social media Roche would have been a name recognised in Irish ladies soccer alone.

Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Log into twitter any day of the week and it is bombarded with sports journalists pushing the 20x20 campaign. Many of them are women yes, but they are hugely respected in their media field and bring snippets and updates on the games, achievements, sponsorships and lives of female sports players at home and abroad.

Over the years ladies GAA has been made to feel second best under that particular umbrella and possibly further down the pecking order further afield. While there may still be a way to go in certain areas, one can’t deny the phenomenal increase in attendances, particularly in ladies football. 

Certainly, Dublin being involved plays a huge part in that increase but all the same, they’re attending. Look at the ladies hockey international last weekend. What a buzz that was! 

A record attendance, a peak TV viewership of 379,000 and pages and pages of print media dedicated to their qualification, not to mention countless hours of interviews on radio. Now, whatever about ladies GAA, ladies Hockey was even further down the rank of interest. That all changed with the World Cup last year and now they’ve backed it up with Tokyo 2020.

Katie Taylor! Internationally recognised as a brilliant boxer. Not a brilliant female boxer, just a brilliant boxer. What she has done for women in sport at home and abroad is staggering.

As a sportsperson I would love to be starting all over again, for the choices, the lure of other sports. Would the potential of an international career supersede the desire to play GAA? Probably! 

I loved soccer and played for years on the road. I went into St. Patricks school and picked up Camogie at age thirteen and the soccer stopped. As a child we didn’t have Irish international sportswomen regularly on our TVs or any other platform.

I remember Wimbledon and Martina Navratilova but that’s all. I didn’t even know you could join a women’s soccer club. 

I used to play with the boys and when they formed a local club I was left out. If I had known I would have begged my parents to let me join. 

I regret not playing more than one sport. But I can’t complain either. 

I loved my camogie career and what it gave me. Women’s boxing, international soccer, international hockey, athletics, even ladies football with overseas contracts, now all seem so appealing to a young girl. 

I have a niece that loves soccer. She’s besotted with the USA ladies soccer team. They are her idols.
That World Cup was great to watch. The TV coverage was top class. We wouldn’t have seen that from previous tournaments.

For a sports-mad kid like I was the world is their oyster. And it’s achievable. 

Kids see their local idols achieve it. What’s now at the disposal of players in terms of financial support, scientific knowledge about what’s right and wrong for your body is immense and it’s only going to get better. It’s fantastic to witness and the future is exciting. 

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Olympics and team Ireland’s achievements. Dreams can become realities now for Ireland’s female athletes.

Limerick man Liam Cronin comes in as hurling coach to the Cork senior camogie team for 2020.

All-Star Amy O'Connor at her club St Vincent's. Picture: Jim Coughlan
All-Star Amy O'Connor at her club St Vincent's. Picture: Jim Coughlan

As mentioned last week Paudie Murray is to remain as manager for a ninth season. Key to his new management changes is the arrival of Cappamore native Liam Cronin.

Teaching in Ardscoil Rís, Liam served as a coach in the Clare senior hurling management for the past three years under joint-manager Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor.

He came to prominence at Harty Cup level with Ardscoil Rís and was also involved with the Limerick underage hurling academy before moving to the Clare senior hurling set-up.

Liam replaces Paudie’s brother Kevin Murray, who was the team's hurling coach in the area of technical and skills development of the players.

The 2020 Division 1 league kicks off on January 25 with a home game to Clare. 

Away games follow to Waterford and Offaly on February 1 and 16 and a final group home game with Kilkenny on March 8.

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