Life lessons with Sinéad Goldrick
Sinéad Goldrick is vice captain of the Dublin Ladies' Football team. Her county plays Cork in the All-Ireland Final tomorrow and the 26-year-old will be hoping to win her first senior medal. She plays club football with Foxrock-Cabinteely, the reigning Dublin County champions. Sinéad works in marketing for a telecommunications company and lives in Dublin. She is in a relationship with the Dublin hurler David Treacy.
I was around seven when I first picked up a Gaelic football. I had played soccer with my brother before that and when I was in school I played every sport I could - basketball, gymnastics... you name it. I also did Irish dancing, so my parents were very busy taking me from one training session to the next.
I realised I was pretty good at sport when the school reports would mention how fast I was in running. I represented Dublin and Leinster in athletics - in 400m hurdles. But I loved the Gaelic football, especially when I got to go to Croke Park for the first time. My dad took me when I was about 10. We stood on Hill 16. It was Jason Sherlock's era, one of the Leinster games against Meath.
The feeling of being beaten in an All-Ireland final never goes away. I still feel it because when sport and your team is your main purpose in life, and when you've worked so hard, and see that everyone else has worked so hard as well, it's very hard to take not getting over the line.
You're heartbroken to lose, and yet if you were told at the beginning of the year what the outcome would be, you'd still want to be there for that journey. It's hard to convey just how special being in a team sport is. Our squad are all different ages, from different walks of life and from different parts of Dublin, but we all have the same values.
We train just as hard as the men. You'd have sessions on the pitch, gym work, county and club matches. There's no difference in terms of commitment.
There are huge sacrifices to be made at this level. I've never done a J1, for instance, and so many of my friends have had that experience. But it's a choice that I make, and I'm happy with. Thanks to football, I've got to travel to Hong Kong with the All Stars. I've got to go to Toronto. That said, there's only a certain amount of players who get those opportunities. But for most, the feeling is that you can go travelling when you're in your 30s, when the football is over.
During the Championship, we might go out for a drink after a match, but that's it. We're very restrictive about the amount we drink, but then you get to have fresh heads at the weekend. When I get to go out with my friends now, it's a real novelty - you really enjoy it.
Lidl has really leveraged the sponsorship of ladies' Gaelic football. They're telling the story about just how much is involved, about how important it is to so many. People might have the perception that ladies' football is not the same as the men's, this idea that we wouldn't go through the same amount of training, but what's brought to life is we play a different ball game to the men - they'd be a lot more physical, but we'd have a lot more skill.
Unlike the men, we don't get any expenses. I'd be out of pocket, because of travelling from Cabinteely to DCU, and paying tolls. The WGPA [Women's Gaelic Players' Association] was set up last year with the aim of changing that. And change is happening. This year, the Government has granted money to both [ladies'] football and camogie teams which hasn't been done before.
If you look too carefully at the inequalities, it could make you not like the game. Personally, I enjoy the sport and the game - I look at that, rather than trying to focus on the inequality.
Inequality and gender is a global problem in sport and the Irish [women's] soccer team have experienced it too. Despite that, I think it's a better time to be a woman in sport now than it ever has been. The Sunday Game covers the camogie and ladies' football finals now, and you'd see more coverage of women's games in the papers now than you used to.
There's still a huge gap between the attendances for men and women's matches. In the All-Ireland final last year, we had 30,000, but there were far fewer for the semi-finals. About 170,000 people play ladies' Gaelic football, and it would be great to see as many of those as possible coming to the final - irrespective of what county they're from. Parents play a huge role, too: they should be bringing their daughters - and sons - to ladies' games. Clubs could be doing more to bring people to the games.
Hockey used to be massive in south Dublin a decade or two ago, but I think the GAA has really taken over. It's a big thing in primary schools now. When I was in St Brigid's, Cabinteely, Gaelic was only getting going, but it's huge there now. I love to see groups of schoolgirls with Gaelic footballs and hurleys.
It's a positive thing to be in a relationship with someone who plays sport as much as I do because we both really understand the commitment that's put in. But, lots of girls are in relationships with people who aren't in sport and it works for them.
Cork are formidable and they've won so much. Any time I've played against them at a senior level, we've lost, but if we all perform, we have a massive chance.
Sinéad Goldrick is an ambassador for Lidl, official partner of the Ladies' Gaelic Football Association. The All-Ireland Senior Final is on TG4 at 4pm tomorrow.
In conversation with John Meagher Photo: Steve Humphreys