General International Women's Day Sports

‘Inspire the next generation’: Shining a spotlight on ladies Gaelic games

As part of our women in sport series for International Women’s Day, Niamh Alexander examines the issues facing women in Gaelic games and the measures needed to bridge the gender-gap
Julia Buckley in action for the Dublin senior camogie team. Photo by iLivePhotos.com

The sporting world is still, primarily, a man’s world.

While huge strides have been made in recent years, there is still a long way to go before men and women have equal opportunities across all sports.

The lack of coverage of both ladies Gaelic football and camogie is stark when compared to their male counterparts and is “completely disproportionate to the amount of women playing sport”, says Niamh Tallon, founder of HerSport.ie – a website aimed at promoting women’s participation in sport and increasing the coverage they receive.

Despite women making up 40.8% of the people playing sport in Ireland, they receive just 6% of the total sports coverage, says Tallon.

“You can’t say it has to be 50/50. That isn’t fair either, and you’re going to have different weeks where there’s more news in women’s sports or more news in men’s sports, but it’s not even near comparable at the moment.”

Of course, this disparity has quite a knock-on effect for female players.

While male Gaelic football and hurling players can enjoy the many perks that come with the high profile – it can be a lot harder for women to achieve the same status.

“It’s about making them feel supported; making them feel that they have the opportunities and showing them what the possibilities are”

Niamh Tallon

“It’s important to make sure that female athletes get the recognition that they deserve because there is such a knock-on effect when it comes to sponsorship opportunities, the funding that they get, the level of support, and also trying to inspire the next generation,” says Tallon.

This is what websites like HerSport.ie and others have been set up to do: highlight the high level of talent in women’s sports and provide role models for the next generation of All Stars.

It is important that young girls understand that there is a space for them in the sports world.

Other organisations are working to increase people’s awareness of ladies Gaelic games.

20×20.ie have created a campaign, ‘If she can’t see it, she can’t be it‘, that aims to increase media coverage and participation at all levels of women’s sports.

Campaigns such as this one are extremely important as a way of improving overall attitudes to women in sport, among both men and women.

“It’s about making them feel supported; making them feel that they have the opportunities and showing them what the possibilities are,” says Tallon.

The drop-out rate among young girls from their local clubs is noticeably higher than it is among boys, with many people believing that this is due to the fact that the world of sports is still primarily a male-dominated scene, with women in sport not being taken as seriously as men.’s.

Tallon believes it is down to individual clubs to do everything they can to foster the talent in the young female athletes.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as having someone at their level that can talk to them. You know if you have a coach who is a 40 or 50-year-old man coaching a 14-year-old Gaelic team then there’s no link. Sometimes it might just take someone who is 20 and a girl to be there and just interact and help out here and there.”

Dublin senior camogie player, Julia Buckley, believes that many of the issues faced by women in camogie and Gaelic football are down to lack of funding, and stresses the importance of providing expenses for players that may have to travel long distances for training or games.

“No one should be out of pocket for playing for their county,” she says.

“Women don’t always have the same access to facilities, media exposure and funding that their male counterparts do. Fixing this would definitely bridge the gap tremendously.”

This particular issue was recently brought to the forefront when the ladies Gaelic football semi-final switched venues twice and had the throw-in brought forward at the last minute.

The venue was initially changed in order to accommodate a training session for the Limerick hurlers, and then again due to frost. The situation was made worse when the throw-in was brought forward to ensure the game would be finished in time for the upcoming men’s game between Tipperary and Mayo.

“These are things that just wouldn’t happen in the men’s game. If we’re going to talk about equality, there has to be some substance to it, not just pushing things under the carpet like they’re not happening. They are happening – every year. The ladies game is probably one of the fastest growing sports in the country, but we don’t seem to have the officialdom in the association that can keep pace with it and to bring the professionalism that is required,” Galway manager Tim Rabbitt told the Irish Times.

Instances like this where women’s sports are forced to play second fiddle to men’s sports are common. But there are also inequalities within women’s sport itself.

With campaigns such as Lidl’s Level The Playing Field campaign promoting ladies Gaelic football, camogie is being left behind.

Lidl ‘level the playing field’ ad campaign highlights the gender-disparity in Irish sports

Buckley believes that camogie’s lack of profile is a major issue, and that low participation rates are “an obstacle that its counterparts don’t have to deal with”.

While there has been a shift in attitudes in recent years, and more is being done to improve the coverage of camogie as well as ladies Gaelic football, there is still a long way to go.

Ex GAA president Liam O’Neill recently told Off The Ball AM that bringing the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association under the one organisation would go a long way towards bridging the gap between men’s and women’s sports. 

Whether this actually comes into fruition remains to be seen.

However, the future for both ladies Gaelic football and camogie is bright:

“It’s certainly exciting to see what’s going to happen in the next while, and it’s important to appreciate where we’ve come from. But we also need to make sure we are always pushing on for a more balanced sporting world for girls,” says Tallon.

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