The Linda Mellerick column: There are more races to win for women's sport

Great strides have been made in recent years but a striking imbalance remains in most codes
The Linda Mellerick column: There are more races to win for women's sport

Jockey Rachael Blackmore with the 'Ruby Walsh Trophy' after being confirmed as the leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival. Picture: Hugh Routledge/Sportsfile

WHAT incredible success Rachel Blackmore had last weekend at Cheltenham!

I listened to her interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last Monday and she was so nonchalant about it all.

In fact, rather than bask in the glory of her tremendous week she was back in the saddle racing in Thurles on Saturday, taking the success in her stride. She said that she is in a sport where gender isn’t an issue, and a big deal wasn’t made out about the fact that she was the first female jockey to have such success.

She spoke of Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry who had pushed through the glass ceiling before she established herself in the sport. They had done it with little fuss and so would she.

While still a long way to go in many sports for equality there has been tremendous strides made over the past decade. It’s an exciting time and it’s going to be great to see what the next decade brings.

During the week Sky Sports announced a three-year deal with the FA to become the primary broadcaster of the ‘Barclays Women’s Super League’ from September 2021.

The BBC will show the women’s super league on network free-to-air TV for the first time in a landmark three-year broadcast deal.

As one of the most competitive leagues, with some of the most famous names and teams in the world, the WSL will be one of Sky Sports’ flagship offerings.

The deal will see Sky Sports show at least 35 games exclusively live per season and further strengthens the broadcaster’s commitment to women’s sport.

“This is a multi-million-pound commitment from Sky that is going to help push the women’s game on even further and support our ambition of having the best professional women’s sports league in the world’’, they stated.

The deal is worth £7m-£8m per season.

That means 22 live matches on BBC TV, including a minimum of 18 on BBC One and BBC Two. Up to 44 live matches, with a minimum of 35, shown on Sky Sports Football, Premier League and main event channels.

Louise Quinn of Arsenal battles for possession with Bethany England of Chelsea. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Louise Quinn of Arsenal battles for possession with Bethany England of Chelsea. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

I’m currently reading The National Team which is the story of the highly successful USA women’s soccer team. The tagline is The inside story of the women that changed soccer. It’s a great read and I’ll bring you excerpts of that next week.

While progress has been made in many areas unfortunately for amateur sports such as camogie and ladies football we are still a long way off.

I was discussing this with my sister the other day, about the expenses that the likes of Hannah Looney will pay to travel from Kilkenny to Cork for training this season.

And what about those who live in North or West Cork where a three-four hour round trip three or four times a week isn’t unheard of.

Dublin camogie player Ali Twomey admitted recently that she finds it difficult to stay motivated as she envies the conditions that her male colleagues train under.

The Lucan Sarsfields woman is heading into her 11th season with Dublin and outlined how, with no expenses on offer, she spends up to €100 a month on tolls alone just to fulfil her inter-county commitments.

She said: “I can’t say it’s great, to be honest. We still don’t get any expenses for going to training. We don’t always get food after training. We got gear last year but the year before I don’t think we got much.

“What you see the lads getting and what we get, there is still a huge difference.

“Girls are starting to put their foot down. In terms of expenses, I’ve been paying €90-100 a month in tolls just to go training, before Covid.

“That’s without petrol or buying food for meal prep or all the other expenses that go with it.

It is a very expensive hobby and, when you compare it to the lads, it is very disheartening.

“I think there’s a lot that needs to be done in terms of levelling things in that respect. Hopefully things will pick up in the coming years.”

The amalgamation of the camogie association, LGFA and the GAA has been slow though the GPA and WGPA recently joined as one.

Ali added: “That’s a great step in the right direction but it is very early days so there hasn’t been much in place yet. I think it’s brilliant.

“The opportunities players have gotten through the GPA and WGPA has been great, in terms of furthering education and the different workshops and courses they have on.

“I think it is really early days for things to be picking up but it’s a really good step in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, the 2020 All Ireland club championship is looking more and more doubtful as the weeks progress.

Galway’s Siobhán McGrath says she’s losing confidence that the club championship will be completed.

Holders Sarsfields have retained their Galway title but not all of the provinces have been completed yet and McGrath is worried that they won’t have the opportunity to put titles back-to-back.

“You have to be of the mindset that it is going ahead until you get official confirmation. It is up in the air and in fairness to Camogie, it is hard for them to give a date. No one knows what’s happening.”

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