A new report on sports participation rates in Mayo and Sligo has found that women here are massively bucking the national trend by being more active than their male counterparts.
The finding is so unusual, according to the Irish Sports Council, that Mayo's active women could well provide some insight and guidance to policy makers at a national level on how to get more women involved in sports.
The Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, was in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, last Friday to officially launch the new report, by the Irish Sports Council, Mayo Sports Partnership, and the Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership.
The report looked at participation rates in sport in Mayo and Sligo and found that 49 per cent of women in Mayo are active and engaging in sports, compared to 47.1 per cent of men.
This is in stark contrast to the national statistics, where there is a strong gender gap. Nationally, men have a 10 per cent higher sports participation rate than women.
The report authors described the finding as "most unusual" and "substantially at odds" with the findings of previous research both in Ireland and internationally on sports participation rates.
The report authors said the findings need to be closely examined to confirm their veracity and find ways to pinpoint why Mayo women are so active.
"At the very least such an examination will help to confirm or otherwise the veracity of our findings and, if such should prove to be the case, to understand better the factors helping to drive women’s participation," reads the report.
"Given the policy imperative around narrowing the gender gap in participation such an assessment might also help to throw some light on what might constitute 'good practice' in encouraging women’s participation with a view to possible emulation elsewhere."
Another important finding in the report was that rural men in Mayo and Sligo are significantly less likely to be highly active and significantly more likely to be sedentary than any other group in the county.
The report authors said getting more rural men engaged in recreational walking could be a good first step towards boosting activity levels among this group.