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EMMA RYAN: Ladies finals deserve more recognition

This Sunday brings an end to the GAA inter-county season with the TG4 Ladies All Ireland Final taking place in Croke Park. In my opinion, it is one of the biggest days in Ireland’s sporting calendar, on par with the men’s All Ireland Final.

The action kicks off at 11:45am with London taking on Louth in the TG4 All Ireland Junior Championship final. This game is followed by the Intermediate decider which will be contested by Kildare and Waterford. At 4pm, Cork will take on Dublin in the highly anticipated senior ladies All Ireland Final.

Every year on the third Sunday in September, the Men’s All Ireland Final demands the attention of the whole country whether your county is involved or not. On the last Sunday in September, the ladies teams compete for the same title and honour as the men.

Ladies who play for their county put in the same amount of dedication and commitment that any male player would for his county. The Ladies game is going from strength to strength and is currently at the highest standard it has ever been. Despite this, the ladies game is rarely given the same recognition and support that the men’s game receives.

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Donegal Ladies captain Katy Herron and Armagh's Caroline O'Hanlon train just as hard as their male counterparts

Donegal Ladies captain Katy Herron and Armagh’s Caroline O’Hanlon train just as hard as their male counterparts

Although it is known that traditionally Gaelic football was a male’s game, most GAA clubs throughout the country have developed ladies teams of all ages from underage to seniors. The club members of these teams see the effort those ladies teams put into competing in their league and championship. The honour of being selected to play for your county is the same whether you are male or female but yet the ladies game is always overshadowed by the men’s game.

The media coverage given to the Men’s football is second to none. This time last week, papers were packed with previews and features concerning the big game. RTE and SKY Sports broadcast the game live and had their top pundits on hand to offer expert analysis. The game was broadcast live on RTE and was viewed by 1.08 million people throughout Ireland. The ladies All Ireland Final gets minimum coverage in newspapers and TG4 will be the only television channel to broadcast it live.

Along with low media coverage, supporters do not commit to the ladies game in comparison to the men’s. Our Donegal Ladies reached an All Ireland Quarter Final against Armagh which took place in Clones. The game was a double header; Dublin played Monaghan after the Donegal and Armagh game. The attendance at the game was extremely low with only one stand in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones occupied by supporters.

Croke Park hosted a double header for the Men’s All Ireland Quarter Final when our Donegal men played Mayo and after Tyrone played Monaghan. A crowd of 61,784 supporters travelled to Croke Park to watch the games that day. The biggest crowd ever at a ladies GAA game consisted of 33,000 supporters for the All Ireland Final in 2001. This is almost half the crowd that attended the men’s quarter final.

This Sunday the LGFA are hoping for a big crowd and are attempting to beat the record number of supporters at a women’s European sporting event in 2015. The ladies FA Cup Final in England was attended by 30,710 supporters and is the current record for this year. Not only would it be great to surpass the record, but it would also be nice for the female footballers of the country to play in front of a big crowd of supporters and receive the recognition they deserve.

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