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Leah Farrell

'Irish sports women are leading the way and there's no longer this dominant sense of tokenism'

It’s an outstanding time for Irish sports that needs to be recognised and relished, writes Emma Duffy.

WHAT AN INCREDIBLE summer it has been for Irish sportswomen.

They’ve been absolutely blowing it out of the water, both on the international stage and on home soil, and catching the eyes of the nation while doing so. Perhaps it’s best epitomised by our World Cup heroes over in London.

Many didn’t know the Irish women’s hockey team even existed before their stunning exploits across the water of late, a remarkable journey which resulted in World Cup silver medals. From zeros to heroes, they captured hearts across the length and breadth of the country and have most definitely culminated a huge untapped following as a result.

The Green Army were intriguing to watch in battle through their campaign; the sheer heart and determination, pride in the jersey and enjoyment in their sport radiating through our TV screens.

Not just that though. The action itself made for seriously good watching; the skill, the fitness, the hunger and passion shining through, and as for those dramatic penalty shootouts … it really was epic.

What about that old argument that men’s sport is better to watch? Go on, try and tell me that that wasn’t just as good – if not better. It’s been said to me so many times lately – especially in terms of ladies football – that it’s actually much more exciting to watch.

That said, we need to stop comparing. Take it for what it is.

The All-Ireland ladies football and camogie championships are well and truly hitting their respective business ends over the coming weeks with the semi-finals and finals looming. Do yourself a favour and get out to watch a match or two – and if you can’t make it, tune into TG4 and RTÉ. Then make your own judgement.

‘Watch it, enjoy it, praise it’

The only way is up, there is no longer this dominant sense of tokenism. People are realising that Irish women really are leading the way and it’s an outstanding time that needs to be recognised and relished.

Soccer, boxing, rugby, basketball, softball, swimming, athletics, hockey and much, much more; it’s a truly fantastic period for women’s sport in Ireland.

Just look at the last few weeks, hockey hype aside. The Ireland women’s relay team were also history makers at the World U20 Championships as they took the silver medal.

The quartet of Molly Scott, Gina Akpe-Moses, Ciara Neville and Patience Jumbo-Gula along with the injured Rhasidat Adeleke on the sidelines, combined to give Irish sports fans something to be really excited about, both as a group and as individuals.

Donegal’s Sommer Lecky came home from the same meet with high jump silver, while a week prior to that, 15-year-old Adeleke stromed to 200m gold at the European U18s.

Sarah Healy is another bright, bright prospect who was on fire with gold in Hungary, and a name that you’ll be hearing plenty of over the next few years.

There’s a truly special crop coming through, some amazingly talented athletes and sportspeople who will undoubtedly build on this golden period of success we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing of late.

Team-wise, stick with Graham Shaw’s Green Army as they go in pursuit of Olympic qualification. The national soccer team came agonisingly close to reaching a first-ever major tournament this year but fell just short in their 2019 World Cup qualifiers. Keep the faith and keep following them on their journey.

Underage basketball and softball teams are others to have made waves over the past few weeks and months, while the standard of ladies football and camogie is rising through the roof year on year.

It’s incredible to see, and needs to be fully appreciated. Watch it, enjoy it, praise it. Keep getting behind these special talents and soak it all in. Times like these don’t come around too often, but the onus is on everyone to make sure they stay.

And that Irish sportswomen keep flying that flag as high as they have been.

Emma Duffy is a sports writer for The42. She has been heavily involved in numerous sports through the years from soccer to athletics, tennis to swimming, and has played Gaelic football at inter-county, club and college level. She lines out with Kingscourt Stars in Cavan.

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