'This is a historic moment': TG4 brings Women's National League to live TV for first time ever

Analyst Laura Cusack says she’s thrilled to be part of the coverage.

FOOTBALL ANALYST LAURA Cusack says she’s thrilled to be part of a “historic moment” for the Women’s National League, which will be shown live on Irish TV for the first time ever in the coming weeks.

tg4-womens-national-league-photocall There are four games to look forward to on TG4. Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

TG4 have announced that it will be broadcasting four games in the concluding stages of the current season, starting with today’s clash between Shelbourne and DLR Waves. The fixtures will also be available for a global audience on the TG4 Player.

Sacar Beo will be presented by Galway sports broadcaster Máire Treasa Ní Cheallaigh.

The news comes as a thrilling title race unfolds in the league with Shelbourne, Wexford Youths and defending champions Peamount United all in contention.

The Irish language station contacted Cusack – who is also a football coach – about contributing to the coverage as an analyst a few weeks ago, having previously worked with her during the Women’s World Cup.

“It’s absolutely brilliant and fair play to TG4. They always pull it out of the bag with coverage of sport and I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for the Women’s National League because you see the Ireland women’s games on telly now and people are sitting up and taking notice that this team is quality.

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“It’s absolutely brilliant for the women playing in the National League to have that coverage because they deserve it first of all. And it’s a really interesting year as well with how tight it is at the top with Peamount, Shels and Wexford.

“I do think it’s important for people to see this. I know when we had the Women’s World Cup on TG4 and RTÉ, I found that was absolutely brilliant. And I felt it was a bit of a game-changer because people were coming up to me and saying, ‘Jesus, the women can play.’ And I’m like, ‘Of course they can play.’

“But there were some people who just kind of came across it and who may not watch it because the opportunity isn’t there. Now, that it’s actually on the telly when you’re flicking through the channels, you can stop and watch it.

“I feel privileged to be a part of it. I’ve coached a lot of the players that are in the league.”

Due to a lack of playing opportunities as a youngster, Cusack first engaged with football through coaching. The chance to play didn’t materialise until she went to college. Cusack points out that that is still the scenario for some girls around the country, but is delighted to see the game progress to a point where club games are being shown live on national television.

“It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come, and I suppose when you look back at that and see there’s no girls teams in certain areas, and that’s still the case in some areas, but it’s getting better. To see Women’s National League on the TV [is huge].

“The fans during and after the Ireland game [against Australia], you could see young girls looking up to the likes of Katie McCabe and just absolutely admiring these footballers. They all know the names, whereas years ago, the women didn’t get the coverage.

“There was a women’s senior Ireland team but not many people knew their names and that’s not right because they’re talented players playing for their country.”

Irish was always Cusack’s favourite subject in school, and she became fluent in the language a few years ago when she embarked on becoming a primary school teacher at Hibernia College.

Her studies coincided with the Women’s World Cup where TG4 offered her the chance to put her linguistic skills to good use. She’ll have another opportunity to talk about the game through Irish when TG4′s coverage of the WNL gets underway.

Cusack, who is engaged to boxer Eric Donovan, has a hectic schedule ahead of her. Their wedding falls in the middle of the programme of games, meaning she will be available for the first and final week of action.  

“I’m getting married over the mid-term break which is the week of the third-last game. So I’m not going to be available for the middle two games that will be televised. But I’ll be tuning in wherever I am.

“It’s actually too hard to call,” she adds about the tense fight for the title at the top of the table.

“Peamount beating Shels 5-0 was a big shock, I couldn’t believe that. Peamount were just outstanding on the day and to beat them 5-0 sends a big message and that’s going to give Peamount a lot of confidence. It will probably drive Shels on, to lose like that. They’re going to be hurting and really up for the last few games as well.

tg4-womens-national-league-photocall Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

“Wexford and Shels on the last day could be a deciding game, who knows? But it’s going to be so interesting. It’s been a really good year for the Women’s National League.”

TG4 is bringing the Women’s National League free-to-air to Irish fans – starting today with Shelbourne v Tolka Waves, live from Tolka Park. Sacar Beo will show four games with live expert analysis from Laura Cusack and Ronan Collins, as a gripping three-way title race unfolds between Shelbourne, Peamount Utd and Wexford Youths.

The first game is live on TG4 and TG4 Player this afternoon, with coverage starting at 4.45pm.

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