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'There were fewer female role models for me to look up to when I started' - RTÉ Sport's Evanne Ní Chuilinn

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The 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry with the Claret Jug is interviewed by Evanne Ni Chuilinn of RTE during a press conference at House in Dublin last July. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry with the Claret Jug is interviewed by Evanne Ni Chuilinn of RTE during a press conference at House in Dublin last July. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry with the Claret Jug is interviewed by Evanne Ni Chuilinn of RTE during a press conference at House in Dublin last July. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The release of the annual Murray Tweet Index identifying the most prolific users of Twitter in Ireland sparks plenty of debate each year and I spoke to the newly crowned No.1, RTÉ’s Evanne Ní Chuilinn.

Role models were in short supply when Evanne set out with a dream to become a sports reporter 15 years ago, but she believes her status at the top of the Twitter rankings is further evidence of a changing media landscape.

"What’s remarkable about a woman topping a list of influential sports journalists is that it is no longer seen to be remarkable," said Evanne.

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Evanne Ní Chuilinn of RTÉ Sport at the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 2 match between Limerick and Cork at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick in May 2019. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Evanne Ní Chuilinn of RTÉ Sport at the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 2 match between Limerick and Cork at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick in May 2019. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Evanne Ní Chuilinn of RTÉ Sport at the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 2 match between Limerick and Cork at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick in May 2019. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"There were fewer female role models for me to look up to when I started out, with Cliona Foley and Claire MacNamara real trailblazers for female sports reporters in Ireland.

"Now, it is not seen as unusual to have a woman presenting a sports show on radio or TV now as the story has long since moved on to who is best for the job.

“There were always a lot of women in the office when I started my career, but it tended to be men on-screen or presenting the big radio shows and that has changed in the last few years.”

A key member of RTÉ’s Olympic Games and GAA coverage, Evanne’s big Twitter following has helped to build her own brand in recent years.

Yet she admits her conversion to the social media network that is struggling to maintain its prominence in a crowded market place was somewhat reluctant.

"I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t see the point of Twitter a few years back," she continues. "My thinking was; who cares about my opinions on sport?

"At the end of the day, my job is not to give opinions on sport, but just present the sports news and the most professional manner possible, but I appreciated the power of Twitter when I was at a press conference as the scandal around Pat Hickey and his role on the International Olympic Committee board blew around the time of the 2016 Olympics.

"There was real electricity in a room that was packed with reporters and I was tweeting out what was being said and you quickly appreciate that there is a lot of responsibility in what you are doing.

"You need to remember that these tweets will be the first time a lot of people are seeing this news breaking and you need to make sure what you are putting out there is accurate and informative."

The unpleasant sideshow of social media platforms can be the abuse that flows from trolls, with my own experience on confirming the block button has been a valuable tool to root out the agitators in recent years.

Evanne insists she has not come under fire from detractors on Twitter and instead, has used her account to encourage those who have been inspired by her success.

"Thankfully, I have not been a victim of online trolling so far," she adds. "You have the odd negative comments about what I might be wearing on TV, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest and you have to ignore any of that.

"On the plus side, I get a lot of young girls messaging me on Twitter who are hoping to get into broadcasting and it is nice to have a platform that offers access to the next generation. I would love to have had that when I was looking to make my break in this job."

Evanne’s success on screen and in the Twitter ratings confirms that the glass ceiling for female broadcasters is now shattered in a modern sporting landscape that rewards excellence.

Online Editors