Ronan's Rant

Ronan McSherry

RONAN’S RANT – Ladies, it’s your GAA too

11 September 2011; Catherine McGourty, Down. All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Championship Final in association with RTE Sport, Down v Waterford, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Ulster Poc Fada champion Catherine McGourty.

I incurred the wrath of a battery of women last week. It was my own fault for trying to be too clever in the minefield of Twitter. While the British Open golf was in full swing, I quipped, “Women know nothing about golf. I had to explain to a female colleague points are awarded according to the number of the club used.”

It was a total nonsensical comment indicating myself has no idea about golf and an attempt to send up sexism, albeit not a very good one. Fore! it went straight over a lot of heads. One lady from Irish Star replied, “Wow! just wow!” incredulous at the caveman mentality while ‘Cat’ posted photographs of female golfers with the caption, “Do you think they haven’t a clue?” Meoww! I hit the delete button quicker than you could say Emmeline Pankhurst.

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Meanwhile golf commentator Peter Alliss was getting thumped for suggesting Zach Johnson’s wife was eyeing up a new kitchen as he sealed his Open success. One hopes the same women are putting as much energy into challenging the inequalities in sport as venting their outrage at an 84-year-old.

I am nervous dear reader. Writing about gender issues is a walk on egg shells. Einstein was a genius but admitted one thing he could not understand was women. There was the woman who bought her husband two ties at Christmas and when he wore one of them, asked, “What’s wrong with the other one?” Yiks!

There was uproar at the presentations to Ulster Poc Fada champions Paddy McKillion from Dungannon and Down camog Catherine McGourty. Paddy won a skiing trip along with the cup while the female champion… well… didn’t. For Poc’s sake! One can only guess the ceremony was humiliating for the Ballycran player who put the same effort into winning the provincial title and will represent Ulster in Saturday’s All Ireland event. While some stood on the line shouting at the organisers, Gaelic Life along with ‘Travel Solutions’ jumped in to make sure the Ballycran PE teacher got her just rewards.

Despite the rhetoric the GAA still has a long way to go in treating women equally. A recent survey of female senior intercounty camogs and footballers indicated a meagre seven per cent received travel expenses, 23 per cent got fed after training, 62 per cent did not receive payment for injury expenses and 33 per cent often have access to hot showers at training.

Tyrone ladies run draws and events to raise their own funds. Compared to the men it is anything but a level playing field. Speaking of playing fields, Tyrone ladies teams, our county representatives, pay to train at Tyrone’s GAA Centre of Excellence in Garvaghey. Unbelievable! It would be interesting to know whether applications for capital funding for the mult-million pound project included sound bites about ‘inclusivity’ and catering for all.

Tyrone Ladies GAA also give money to Club Tyrone who raise funds to pour into the county men’s’ team. However members of the Tyrone ladies team have been used in photographs to promote Club Tyrone.

“It’s a man’s man’s world” sang James Brown the father of funk music. One Rant would only skim the surface of rights and perks afforded to men that is denied the ladies. It is indeed ironic as Tyrone GAA is the first county to appoint a female chairperson, Roisin Jordan.

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Author Malachy McCourt spoke of Ireland where “men look down on their women with reverence.” There are many men who still do not believe woman should be near a GAA field. Barney Rubble asked me last week, “How would they like it if we took over their sewing?” He really did! I won’t break his anonymity as his wife would clatter him over the head with the frying pan. Oh dear! was that sexist?! frying pan?

There is another song by The Eurythmics … “Sisters are doing it for themselves, standing on their own two feet and ringing on their own bells.”

The fairer sex need to assert their position in the GAA and stop playing small. Instead of complaining on social websites what about going to the Poc Fada and supporting Catherine? There were very few women on the Cooley Mountains last year.

When the highlights of a camogie or ladies football match is shown on the Sunday Game the managers interviewed afterwards are always men. Show some self belief and take on the management jobs girls. Take ownership of the games.

When courageous Sian Massey-Ellis became a linesman (linesperson?) in the Premiership she received a tirade of sexist abuse. She proved to be as good at the job as her male counterparts. It can be done. Maggie Farrelly from Cavan has also made her mark as a referee in the GAA. However examples of females asserting themselves in the GAA are too few and far between.

The Ladies GAA scheduling Tyrone’s game in Ballinamore on the same day the men will play Sligo in Croke Park is not the way to promote the Ladies game.

Ladies it is little wonder you are angry. Gender inequality is rife in the GAA. Assert your right to respect and fair play. After all God helps those who help themselves.

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