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Sinead Kissane: At last, women Master the sports they love

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Condoleezza Rice and golf legend Gary Player at the Masters in Augusta

Condoleezza Rice and golf legend Gary Player at the Masters in Augusta

Condoleezza Rice and golf legend Gary Player at the Masters in Augusta

'I WAS one of the first women from this parish to go to an All-Ireland Final." My late grandmother Bridget Kissane kick-started a new way of thinking for women in Ballydonoghue in north Kerry in the 1950s by attending the 1955 football final at Croke Park.

Unperturbed by what was expected in that era, she took the road less travelled by women back then.

Nearly 60 years on, my grandmother's actions are closer to the rule rather than the exception.

But there are still some actual rules only just being lifted. This week there was a shot for equality at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore became the first women to wear the famous green jackets as members of Augusta, home of the US Masters.

It's a first in the 80-year history of the former all-men's club. When it comes to the green jacket, it seems one size can fit all.

The image of Condi playing golf with Phil Mickelson is unlikely to get some girls, who are uninterested in sport, rushing to drop their tea set and reach for a Titleist.

It is, however, another step towards changing any perception of golf being an all-male preserve.

What was noticeable was the number of girls waiting for autographs during the par-three contest at Augusta on Thursday.

And what about Caroline Wozniacki playing caddy for her boyfriend Rory McIlroy? Women are not out of bounds on this fairway.

The swing from my grandmother's days to today has not been as fast or flash as a Nike swoosh.

After Kerry won the four-in-a-row in the 1981 All Ireland Football Final, my father and his relatives went to celebrate in one Dublin establishment.

However, his sister-in-law was not allowed by the staff to go into the bar with the men to talk football. She had to wait in the lounge.

Unbelievable.

This landscape has now changed utterly. Women pour into Croke Park and are just as interested as men in their team's affairs.

Forget your trophy wife, wives are hunting for trophies for their teams.

When our family was down a ticket for the 2006 All-Ireland final, my father gave his ticket to my mother, not wanting her to miss the occasion. It's not just the game that attracts women but also the social side.

Leinster Rugby, who've introduced themed 'Ladies Nights', say a huge part of their growing attendance has been down to more women going to matches.

Who needs TV soaps when you can pop down to the RDS or any other rugby ground to watch real drama?

One movement which has been revolutionary in introducing more girls and women to sport is the Community Games. It is equality central.

And because it is voluntary like the GAA, it has counted on women and mothers getting involved in the running and administration of sport in the community.

As well as the way women think about sport, it has also changed for women who work in sport. In the 1947 All Ireland Football Final in New York, Anna Kelly from the 'Irish Press' was the only Irish female reporter working at the game.

Mick Finucane, who played on the Kerry team, said most of the players did not take Ms Kelly seriously as a reporter.

He was the only player to give her an interview. I don't need to add how times have changed. Are most women going to be glued to the Masters all weekend? A toss-up for tonight is to either to sit in and watch it on tv or celebrate my sister's birthday.

The view from her home in Sandycove is a reminder of how stuck in the past some parts of our society still are. The famous Forty Foot has been open for swimming to both sexes for at least 25 years.

But in December 2012, the Sandycove Bathers Association rejected a proposal for women to become members.

When Tiger Woods was asked this week about women members at Augusta, he said: "It was the right timing".

The right timing? Was there ever a wrong time, Tiger? Sense has finally sunk in. If my grandmother was still alive, her response would be like that famous corner at Augusta.

Amen.

Sinead Kissane is a sports reporter and presenter at TV3

Irish Independent