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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 26 September, 2018
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'Back then I just played with the boys - now there's 220 girls at a ladies football summer camp in Fermoy'

Saoirse Noonan writes about equality in sport and the road to Croker in her final column for The42.

In action against Westmeath recently.
In action against Westmeath recently.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

EQUALITY OF MEN and women in sport is something that’s been discussed to no end for as long as I can remember.

That gap between the two, the differences, the inequality more than anything. I do think it is getting better though, there is much more parity than before.

I can only speak from my own experiences but with the Cork senior ladies footballers, we are treated very equally to the boys. We get food after training, we’re kitted out from top to bottom in training gear, and other things from facilities to physios — we have the best on offer too.

It’s the same with Cork City. We’re merged with the men so it’s very equal. Likewise we have all the same gear, we look the same as them going to matches, use the same facilities and resources and what not.

I do feel that it’s getting so much better than before and there’s only bigger and better things to come as well.

When I started out there weren’t even girls teams at underage level. The difference a few years brings. For instance, two weeks ago we were down in Fermoy doing Cork LGFA camps. Orla Farmer runs it — a Gaelic football summer camp for girls, the interest is unbelievable.

There were 220 kids there from the age of six or seven to the age of 15. It was absolutely fantastic to see such interest and such a great set-up. It brought me back to when I was that age, when there would only be a handful of girls and the rest consisted of boys. It’s great to see how it has developed for the girls.

Of course there has been a good few reasons why girls’ sport has become more popular over the years; the facilities in clubs and media coverage, especially TG4 who show the games live. Girls have proven over the last couple of years that they can achieve as much as the boys. Rena Buckley is a prime example.

Look at Ireland at the Hockey World Cup. No one gave them a chance and they brought home a silver medal, what an achievement. The amount of trophies and medals girls are winning at the moment and the feats they are achieving are incredible. Last year’s All-Ireland ladies football finals and that 46,286 attendance in Croke Park — the biggest attendance ever in Europe at a women’s sporting event.

It’s crazy for an amateur sport to have that, it’s so cool though and amazing that we’re all involved.

Cork weren’t there on the day last year but the journey to hopefully play in Croke Park on 16 September 2018 has been going to plan so far this time around. That said, we have one massive, massive step left in playing Donegal in the semi-final.

We’ve trained so hard for so long and met all of our championship aims and goals to date. Obviously we took every game as it came, but each hurdle has been difficult to clear. There have been some big score differences but no game has been easy by any means.

Every side we’ve met has been good, each game has been tough and we’ve gone to the very last minute trying to put scores on the board. We want to show everyone what we’re about: we’re here to do everything we can to get into an All-Ireland final, to win it, and that we’re well able for that.

Donegal is going to be a huge test, we’re well aware of that. It’s going to be a great game involving two good sides. But I think if we do play to our potential, no one will stop us.

To play in Croke Park — I’ve never done it, it’s well up on the bucket list! — and hopefully get a win there is the dream. But we won’t get carried away yet, there’s a huge amount still to be done.

We’ll keep training away as we have been — both as a team and as individuals — and I’ll continue to work on the balance between Gaelic and soccer.

This is my last column for The42. I really enjoyed the experience and I would like to thank everyone who read them over the last 12 weeks and I hope that some of the experiences, insights and training plans I’ve shared have been of interest.

And to finish — I hope the next time I’m on The42 it’s an interview after winning the All-Ireland final!

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