Dublin’s Sinéad Goldrick proud to be at vanguard of growing sport
All Star player calls for more State funding for Women’s Gaelic Players Association
Mayo’s Sarah Rowe, Donegal’s Geraldine McLaughlin, Cork’s Jess O’Shea and Dublin’s Sinéad Goldrick attend the announcement of Lidl Ireland’s second year of partnership with the Ladies Gaelic Football Association. Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Around this time last year Sinéad Goldrick walked into her local Lidl supermarket, headed towards the trolley bay, and saw her image plastered all over it.
“What the hell is this?” Goldrick thought, not quite ready to embrace the fact she was suddenly one of the faces of a new Lidl marketing campaign worth €1.5 million a year to women’s Gaelic football.
Of course, it was exactly the sort of recognition she and many like her had been looking for. Now, one year on, the five-time Dublin All Star is happily embracing the image, particularly as Lidl have again committed the same amount to promote the women’s National League for 2017, and again next year.
“I got quite a bit of slagging after that,” she adds, “Snapchats with my face on the trolley, thinks like that. It just wasn’t something we were familiar with. But of course, when you look at the bigger picture, it’s all about promoting the game. Young girls need to see more women ambassadors, and I think we’re seeing a lot more of that now. And I know the TV ad, where women’s football is coming from, got people thinking.”
Around the same time Lidl also launched the pink ‘Ladyball’ promotion, designed to provoke some controversy and act as a lightning rod for the wider discussion of women in sport: again, Goldrick believes that was a positive promotional tool, but also pointed towards some considerable “inequality” that still exists, particularly in terms of Government recognition and funding.
In December, for example, it was agreed that Government support for male intercounty players would, though the Gaelic Players Association, increase to €1.6m for this year, rising to €2.3m next year and €3m in 2019. In contrast, a two-year agreement commencing in 2017 will see Government support for the Women’s Gaelic Players Association (WGPA), which caters for both the Camogie Association and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, total just €500,000 a year.
“The WGPA has allocated €8,000 to each county team,” says Goldrick. “I’m not sure of the figure they’ve granted to the GPA, but there’s a difference. It’s a huge step for us to get that €8,000. But from a Government level in terms of encouraging equality across the board, we need to allocate the correct funding for men and women’s county teams.
“I know there’s a completely different attendances [between men and women] but I’d love to see the same allocation of funding to women, in all sports. Because if you’re giving different funding, that’s showing inequality. So I think the Government funding should be equality too, if we really want to talk about equality.”
It’s not just about funding: Goldrick admits the women’s game still needs to improve on attendances. Last year’s All-Ireland final, which saw Cork defeat Dublin, saw another record attendance of 34,445, the highest attended women’s football match in Europe.
“We’ve come a long way and it’s great but looking at different opportunities to showcase our games, one thing would be curtain-raisers in league games, where the attendance for the men’s game wouldn’t be as high.
“Of course, it’s also about football and camogie not always being played on the same day. It’s a welfare thing, really, because players want to get the best out of themselves.”
For women’s football association president Marie Hickey, a complete merger with the GAA, along with camogie, may ultimately address any lingering inequalities, although that’s unlikely in the short term.
“There is not resistance as such,” she says. “I think it’s a natural progression, something that’s going to happen, but it’s not something that can just happen in a year, or two years.
“We have worked a lot more together in the last five years with the GAA, with camogie, sitting down talking about things, and stuff like that. I wouldn’t like to put a time frame on it.”
Goldrick, meanwhile, is looking forward to another season, still determined to close that gap on defending league and All-Ireland champions Cork.
“We’ve a new manager in Mick Bohen, so all very positive. We’ve reached three All-Ireland finals now, still haven’t come out with a win, so that’s always going to be the goal, to win that. We want to turn that into motivation, to move forward. But of course as a player you don’t forget those losses.”
Mayo women’s football manager Frank Browne is also expecting news “in the next day or so” about Cora Staunton, who has yet to confirm whether or not she’ll commit to an incredible 23rd year with the county. Aged 35, Staunton is by far the longest-serving player in the women’s game.
“From a team point of view and from a personal point of view, no matter what her decision is, we’re 100 per cent behind her because she doesn’t owe anything to the jersey,” says Browne.