Thursday 22 March 2018

Sports bodies 'could do more for' female stars

Busy working mum: RTE sports broadcaster Evanne Ní Chuilinn juggles a successful career with raising her daughter Peigí and son Seimi (4) Photo: Mark Condren
Busy working mum: RTE sports broadcaster Evanne Ní Chuilinn juggles a successful career with raising her daughter Peigí and son Seimi (4) Photo: Mark Condren

Claire McCormack

Her first memory of holding a microphone was in her father's old pirate radio station in a "rickety shed" in Ballycallan, Co Kilkenny.

Evanne Ni Chuilinn was just seven years old and recording story tapes to send to her uncle Seimi - a priest who lived in Japan - was her favourite thing to do.

Despite the buzz of being in the makeshift studio, the RTE star says it was her experience on school debating and sports teams that gave her the real confidence to pursue a career in front of the camera.

At 22, the former camogie and basketball player landed a researcher job at the State broadcaster ahead of the 2004 Olympics in Athens - a time when fewer women were presenting sport and there was less coverage of female sporting events than now.

"I approached RTE in 2004 knowing they would be short on staff for the Olympics. I started off working on the GAA coverage. There were fewer women then than there are now certainly," she said.

Although women now play a significant role in the running of the RTE sports department, she says it's not about ticking gender boxes. The 34-year-old mother-of-two believes female athletes share a similar mindset when it comes to media coverage of their games.

"No woman wants to be a token. I don't want to be a token TV presenter because I'm a woman, just like I don't think any athlete would want to be a token athlete to fill a gender quota," she said.

"You want to get there because you are talented and skilled - and athletes are quite similar, they want to be lauded and acknowledged for their achievements," she said.

But after more than a decade in the business, she says some governing bodies could do more to promote their female stars.

"When it's the right editorial call I will do everything in my power to get women on air all the time. But sometimes it's actually logistically very difficult to do that," she said.

"Governing bodies could take a more proactive approach in terms of getting coverage. You don't get the same co-operation with each one. It's unfortunate but governing bodies have to work harder for their own women as well," she said.

However, the Gaeilgeoir, who is also studying for a masters in sports management at UCD, says she wouldn't support a move to play the Ladies GAA All-Ireland finals on the same day as the men's.

"To play in Croke Park is a huge achievement and to have to share that with the men defeats the purpose of the honour. They would almost become a curtain raiser because the ladies' games would more than likely be played first," she said.

"I wouldn't be pushing for it. They want and deserve their own limelight in Croker," she said.

Despite giving birth to her second child, Peigí, just 10 months ago - her son Seimi is 4 - Evanne is gearing up for a bumper sporting summer, including a trip to Rio for the Olympics this August.

"You think about bucket lists, and one of the things I've always wanted to do is cover an Olympics. To just go to an Olympic village and run ragged for a month and just relish it and I can't wait to do that in Rio." she said praising the support of her mother Catherine, father Cathal and husband Brian, a youth worker.

"My thesis is due five days before Rio so I'll have a lot of juggling to do but we'll still make time for our date nights which tend to be rugby and hurling matches," she laughed.

Sunday Independent

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