Why women’s sports deserve support and funding

If we want future success for our sporting women, then we need to invest in their sporting facilities and infrastructure

Galway's Olympic bronze medal winner, Fiona Murtagh. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Galway's Olympic bronze medal winner, Fiona Murtagh. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

"The last mile is never crowded and that’s the way it does feel sometimes. The difference is to be able to hold on in there, to keep it going."

So said Kellie Harrington, on her path towards an Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo games last August. She was speaking on the journey of her sporting career and the supports she received from sporting role models, and her community, along the way.

Kellie Harrington captured the hearts of the nation, with uncompromised pride for her community, and was part of a fantastic 2021 for women in Irish sport.

Indeed, if we learned anything from last year - at least in sporting terms - it is surely that the time to treat, and fund, women's sports equally with men’s sports is now.

Sign of the times?

Fiona Murtagh and her family 2021 by Mike Shaughnessy

Galway Oluympian Fiona Murtagh with her parents Noel and Marguerite sister Lorrain and brother Alan. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

St Patrick's Day 2022 was a sign of the times in many places across the country as it was women athletes leading parades. Galway was no exception with Olympians Fiona Murtagh and Aifric Keogh - part of Ireland's women's rowing team medallists - as the grand marshalls for our city’s recent parade.

However, the high life of cheering crowds is a far cry from footage that emerged during the final round of the 2021 interprovincial rugby series which saw the Connacht Women's team changing beside bins before their highly anticipated match against Ulster. The IRFU apologised but it encapsulates how women's sports, even at the highest levels, can be overlooked.

That said, over the course of 2021, we saw a number of highlights for women's sports, such as the incredible victory of Meath at their first All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship, which really begs the question: Is now the time we see full Government supports put in place for women's participation in sport?

Issues remain

Galway's Carrie Dolan 2020 Liberty insurance Senior Camogie Championship by Mike Shaughnessy

Galway's Carrie Dolan in action at the 2020 Liberty insurance Senior Camogie Championship. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Every week amazing community groups across Galway are working on a local level to make their clubs more welcoming to girls and women. Insider cannot stress enough how important it is that the message to be sent out that girls have a place in these vital community hubs, and that the comradery and physical activity we associates with sport, that is essential to sport, and indeed is sport at its best, is every bit as much for them as their male friends and brothers.

For young, aspiring, sportswomen, Galway is fortunate to have amazing ambassadors such as the Galway Senior All-Ireland Camogie Team, Niamh Fahey who plays for the Liverpool Women's Team, and frequent jockeys like Katie O'Farrell and Rachael Blackmore.

Galway Utd Emma Starr by Mike Shaughnessy

Galway WFC's Emma Starr in action from the SSE Airtricity Women's National League. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Yet, issues still remain. Even something as simple as cycling has disastrous rates when it comes to inclusion of young girls. The Galway Cycling Campaign is to be commended for its advocacy in seeking to address the barriers to teenage girls cycling to school, but the fact the GCC have to highlight this, shows how much we, as a society, have discouraged girls and women leading an active, fun, involved life.

The recent campaign by Connacht Hockey to find a new home shows that often sports groups have to jump up and down to get the support they need and deserve. So it is very welcome news that Connacht Hockey has managed to secure €178,654 in the recent Sports Capital Grant funding to develop a hockey pitch at Millers Lane in Knocknacarra.

Investing in success

Galway Utd WFC 2021 by Mike Shaughnessy

Galway WFC's Aoife Thompson is congratulated be team captain Savannah McCarthy after scoring a goal against Cork City at an SSE Airtricity Women's National League game at Eamonn Deacy Park in 2021. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

On International Women's Day this year An Post launched a series of stamps celebrating women in sport. Rachael Blackmore, Kellie Harrington, Ellen Keane and the Ireland hockey team are among those honoured and being recognised for all they have achieved. The Ireland women’s hockey team also got their own stamp as silver medallists at the 2018 World Cup, and the current squad has also qualified for this year’s World Cup.

While it is important to celebrate our successes, realities must be faced, such as the more dull and administrative affair of having to deal with investing in our future athletes - but such investment is essential if we want to have future successes to celebrate. It means providing funding for changing rooms and bathrooms fit for purpose if it all, it means bright lights on dark nights, and it means a pitch made for west of Ireland weather.

In the end, that means supporting the clubs, the coaches, the parents, and most importantly supporting as many girls as possible to give sport a go, whether to become Olympians or just for the craic.


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