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Epic day of sport edges women closer to parity

Editorial


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Meath players Megan Thynne, left, and Aoibhín Cleary celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after their side's victory against Kerry in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Meath players Megan Thynne, left, and Aoibhín Cleary celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after their side's victory against Kerry in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Meath players Megan Thynne, left, and Aoibhín Cleary celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after their side's victory against Kerry in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

We should have more big days out in women’s sport – just the same as is often the case with men’s sport. Yesterday was a gala day for women in elite sports. At Wembley in London, the Euro 2022 final pitted England against Germany. Here at home, the women from six counties took the field for All-Ireland football finals at Croke Park in junior, intermediate and senior grades.

At long last, these games were given top television billings. They reached the widest audiences across Ireland and – in the case of the soccer final – the world. It is important for young women and girls to have role models they can look up to. Many of them will have looked at yesterday’s action and felt inspired to lead more active and high-achieving lives. Such an outlook is good for mental and physical health, as well as longevity.

If young girls and women can see female sport stars shine and achieve, they can then envisage themselves also engaging in sport. But they should be able to see such achievements vastly more often than is currently the case.

The high point of the women’s sporting year comes as a very important debate is developing in Ireland on the crucial question of keeping young people – especially girls and young women – engaged in participative sport. The sad reality is that too many young girls in this country drift away from active sport at far too young an age, with knock-on health and social fallout.

This is a major social and public health issue and requires serious discussion leading to decisive action. Part of the answer is giving parity of respect to women’s sport at every level.

Thankfully, the days of women playing our national games on the “back field” are a thing of the past. And yesterday in Croke Park, there was a feast of women’s sport where the passionate endeavours of the players were more than matched by the enthusiasm of the huge attendance of supporters, many of them young girls, accompanied by parents, family members and club colleagues.

In the showpiece of the day – the senior final between Kerry and Meath – we saw the women of Kerry throw everything at last year’s champions from the Royal County with a sparkling early start. However, Meath ran out worthy champions for a second consecutive year. Their victory owed much to ruthlessness when presented with goal-scoring opportunities.

In defeat, Kerry can take great consolation from a season which saw them deliver huge improvements in performance.

In the earlier intermediate final, the women of Laois – a county with a proud GAA tradition but limited silverware to show for it – earned a deserved two-point victory over a tenacious Wexford side. There was excitement all the way in this game as Wexford threatened to the end.

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In the junior final, Ulster rivals Antrim and Fermanagh played out a stunning draw and must do it all again in a replay. All in all, it was a great day’s sport and another vital step towards full recognition for the parity of women’s sport in Ireland.


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