Sunday 19 January 2020

'I would rather be hated for what I am than liked for what I pretend to be'

Niamh Horan joined a female rugby team for a day. She poked fun, mostly at herself, but what followed was an online frenzy. Here she gives her response

Niamh Horan
Niamh Horan
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Dear online mob, for the next 1,000 words I'm going to wax lyrical about the differences in the technical skills of female versus male rugby.

Are you still with me?

Don't worry, I'm only yanking your chain.

Because I'd clear out you readers quicker than the crowd pegged it out of Twickenham when the women came on following the men's Six Nations this year.

Niamh Horan in the front row of the scrum with Fiona Spillane, Lisa Callander, Ali Bird and Aoife Maher
Niamh Horan in the front row of the scrum with Fiona Spillane, Lisa Callander, Ali Bird and Aoife Maher

Don't think I didn't see you little minxes hot-footing it to the nearest bar. That's not my fault babies. That's life.

Because unlike Irish Times columnist and energy-zapper-in-chief Una Mullally, I like to think I know what is popular among readers and what isn't.

As she must have realised when she wrote about "the determination of women's rugby in Ireland" last Saturday week and got all of 52 shout outs on the entire kingdom of Twitter for her efforts.

Just above revealing a coke habit or playing a cute video of cats falling off furniture - nothing grabs interest more than sex.

Niam Horan tries rugby
Niam Horan tries rugby

All you have to do is whistle, as Lauren Bacall would say.

And as a quirky t-shirt I once saw on some rapper said, "Don't blame me, blame society."

Last week's article: Niamh Horan on women in rugby: 'I never play a game without my tan'

So, when my news editor (he is male by the way) asked me to go and write a piece on women's rugby - I begrudgingly obliged.

Begrudgingly? I hear you say. Why yes, because I am to physical sports what frogs are to lawnmowers. The only form of exercise I participate in is the kind that makes me skinny.

And I certainly don't like being told how to be more skilful with my hands, unless, of course, I'm naked. Or it can make me money. Not at the same time obviously - that would just be illegal.

Niamh Horan
Niamh Horan

So I dealt with the task at hand in the same way I used to endure an hour-long mass on a Sunday as a 12-year-old altar-girl, the last time I can recall being in an awkward situation wearing clothes I didn't like.

I decided to laugh my way through it, cracking jokes in the ear of the girl standing closest to me.

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The players, in fairness to them, were great craic. We chatted about make-up and tan and hot men - and basically all of my favourite topics. While they showed me how skilful they are at passing and tackling and being all-round kickass on the pitch.

I was in awe of their sheer sporting talents, while they were in awe of my unparalleled sporting ignorance.

It worked well as a piece. Or so I thought.

Because as sure as you have a laugh, there's always someone out there - in dire need of a good lay - ready to rain on your parade. Except I wasn't in the mood for the hundreds of abusive messages that came 
my way on the Sunday night once my article had been published.

I was too busy enjoying great company, having the craic and listening to 1980s music in an old man's pub down the country.

When I awoke early on Monday morning I had a couple of radio stations calling to ask me to "defend my position".

My position was actually pretty comfortable at that moment in time, if I'm being completely honest.

Oh sorry, I forgot, I'm not allowed make cheap sexual puns anymore, apparently.

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As far as I could see my biggest crime was showing that women could be good at sport while still looking attractive, having a laugh and not hiding their sexuality.

Guilty as charged, my online critics.

You may call me inappropriate, I call you boring.

Or else what? You think I misquoted the girls about the tans and the make-up and the boys?

I quoted their words, not mine - and more power to them.

I was also derided for pointing out that, "These are not butch, masculine, beer-swilling, men-hating women."

You do realise I used the word NOT there?

Does this mean if I say someone is NOT fat, I will also get a rap on the knuckles for using the word 'fat'?

Because I really don't want to spend the rest of my career as a "journalist" walking on eggshells around your sensitivities as opposed to entertaining our readers.

I'm using inverted commas around the word "journalist" because for some reason that's the way some of you have referred to me on Twitter.

I best keep my journalism grey from now on to fit in with your idea of what a real writer should be - should I?

I best strip off my 
make-up and write articles entitled, 'Darwinism, and personal finance checks, in the home.' So help me God, I'll do it.

(I kid you not - this was an actual headline on Mullally's column earlier this month).

But do you know what really got to me? All you online haters had to go and intimidate the rugby players didn't you?

A minute after the club posted their appreciation of the piece last Sunday, Mullally decided there'd be no craic on her watch.

"Oh my God," she said, tweeting a link to my article, before adding: "I wonder how the Railway Union players and club feel about being sexualised and patronised in the Sindo today?"

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"Apparently they think it's great," her followers pointed out, before directing her to their public endorsement of the piece.

That would shut her up. Or so I thought. Because, like a couple of school kids, Una's followers suddenly began goading the players: "No real rugby player would endorse that," one chided on their page.

"Are you serious?!?!?!" scolded another.

Zero-Lols-Mullally then continued chastising the club - preaching that they were doing a disservice to their supporters by endorsing the article.

Eventually, at 1.20pm, Railway Union deleted the original post - along with an edited version - and instead said: "The article in no way reflects our sport, its values and the values of our club and our members."

After that, it was all-out ochlocracy.

During our encounter, the rugby players taught me about physical strength, so I can now return the favour in moral strength.

No matter how big the wall of opposition becomes, never ever back down from being true to who you are. I would rather be hated for what I am, than liked for what I'm pretending to be, as someone once said. And admit it Railway Union girls - as well as rugby - you like wearing tan, make-up and checking out boys.

I saw it in your faces. We had a great evening.

In fact, I would like to do it again - except with alcohol and somewhere I can wear something a bit more shapely.

I did ask them to meet me again, for drinks, this week.

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But I was told they were too bruised after the week that was in it to take me up on my offer.

Well I'm sorry to hear that.

The girls did however offer to bring me training with them again - this time with no cameras around.


But just so you'll know girls - despite what the wailing critics say online - if it had been a male rugby team, you are damn right I would have written the exact same piece. Except I'd have probably worn a push-up bra and stayed around a bit longer after the game.

You know, to chance my arm at that threesome and all.

Well, ye certainly didn't seem up for it now, did ye!

Don't say I didn't ask.

You see I can make these jokes in a national newspaper because the people who know me know my pants are actually harder to get into than one of Mullally's windbag musings.

Sunday Independent

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