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Wexford Youths' Kylie Murphy lifts the FAI Continental Tyres Women’s Cup.
Wexford Youths' Kylie Murphy lifts the FAI Continental Tyres Women’s Cup.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Women's FAI Cup final penalty shootout fiasco was utterly avoidable

There were farcical scenes at the climax of Sunday’s game at the Aviva Stadium.
Nov 9th 2015, 10:11 PM 6,867 3

IRISH INTERNATIONAL LOUISE Quinn summed up the general mood on Twitter yesterday afternoon when she said on the site: “Shameful that the great game was marred by the mens (sic) teams warming up on the pitch before penos were taken #norespect.”

There was widespread anger after Cork City men’s players chose to warm-up on the Aviva Stadium pitch amid the culmination of a thrilling FAI Women’s Cup final.

The ensuing scenes were surreal and embarrassing in equal measure, as a tense finale to an excellent game of football was undermined by the distracting presence of players warming up in one half, while the penalties were taking place down the other end.

RTÉ commentator Ger Canning called it “disrespectful” and many others agreed, with the spectacle undoubtedly affected as a result of this issue.

As many have pointed out, a reverse of this scenario if the Shelbourne-Wexford Youths match had happened to take place after the men’s encounter would be unthinkable. So for people to assume that the opposite situation was somehow tolerable sums up the unfortunate, patronising attitudes that continue to hamper the women’s game in this country.

The Cork players received plenty of criticism for their actions, but the organisers of the event — RTÉ, the FAI and Aviva all have a say (as pointed out by The42′s resident League of Ireland columnist John O’Sullivan) — were the primary culprits.

The fact that extra-time and penalties ensured the women’s game ran over time, coupled with the 3.30pm kick-off for the men’s match, meant that the players were left with limited time to perform their pre-match warm-up.

Sacrificing 5-10 minutes of pre-match preparation may seem like a small sacrifice for the greater good, but many top athletes would hardly see it that way. As unusual as it may seem to the average punter, those 5-10 minutes will be considered invaluable from the players’ perspective. Cork would not have wanted to give Dundalk even the slightest advantage going into yesterday’s game and thus felt obliged to do as instructed and engage in their warm-up.

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The blame for the incident should therefore lie primarily at the organisers’ door. Many assumed that they had simply not anticipated that penalties would transpire, and therefore made a panicked decision to allow the Cork players onto the field of play.

However, Lisa Fallon – a Performance/Opposition Analyst with Cork City – tweeted an image which suggested organisers had planned for the warm-ups to coincide with a potential penalty shoot-out — a revelation that exacerbates an already farcical decision.

The one question that remains is whether the footballers involved are entirely blameless. Could they have waited an extra few minutes? Should they have refused to warm-up in solidarity with their female counterparts, or demanded a delay to the kick-off? Games starting slightly later than scheduled is commonplace in GAA, therefore why should soccer be different?

Such stances would have been admirable, but in the players’ defence, it was a heat-of-the-moment situation, and footballers have to be selfish sometimes, so the women’s match was likely the last thing on most of the Cork side’s minds as they got ready for one of the biggest games of their careers.

And looking at it from a different perspective, the men’s footballers might also legitimately ask why they should be the ones to suffer from administrative incompetence.

Many people within the game have worked incredibly hard to promote women’s football in Ireland, not to mention the players themselves who are being rewarded for a long, hard campaign, so it’s disappointing that yesterday’s incident tarnished the season’s showpiece event slightly and undermined the progress that has been made to a degree.

The FAI and other decison-makers involved owe it to those tireless champions of the sport at grassroots level to ensure that Sunday’s scenes are not repeated and the women’s game gets the respect it deserves in future.

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Paul Fennessy

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