Ayeisha McFerran has ‘complete admiration’ for Naomi Osaka’s stance

‘She is trying to set a precedent that reporters need to be held accountable’

Irish women's hockey goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran added her name to those who have spoken out in support of tennis player Naomi Osaka. The Japanese player opted to withdraw from the second tennis major of the year in Paris on Monday.

“I respect what she’s done,” said McFerran, who plays hockey professionally for Dutch side Kampong. The 25-year-old from Larne has twice been nominated for the award of best goalkeeper in the world. She also won goalkeeper of the tournament at the 2018 World Cup in London, where Ireland were beaten by Netherlands in the final.

Osaka won her opening match against Romania's Patricia Maria Tig in straight sets on Sunday and was fined $15,000 (€12,240) for not doing post-match media. Later that day, a joint statement from Grand Slam organisers said Osaka could face expulsion from the tournament if she continued to avoid them, which led to the player announcing her withdrawal on Monday.

The 23-year-old said last week she would not do news conferences at Roland Garros to protect her mental health.


“She took it from a personal point of view that she’s trying to protect herself and she is trying to set a precedent that, no offence, reporters need to be held accountable,” added McFerran.

“When you get some interviews female versus male . . . I think it is very different in how they are handled. From my point of view, I have been fortunate so far. I’ve never had anyone question me, my beliefs or who I am or what I’m doing.”

Ireland meet the Dutch in their first match of the European Championships on Saturday. Taking place at the Wagener Stadium in Amsterdam, Ireland are hoping to reach the semi-finals for the first time and land a World Cup 2023 ticket. The team then faces Scotland and Spain in their two other pool matches before classification games begin.

“I have the utmost respect for what Naomi did and I think it’s really brave to set out and do that because she’s not just losing financial gains from playing in the tournament,” said McFerran.

“You can see people attacking her so it’s not a good spot for her, which is really unfortunate. But yeah, complete admiration for what she is doing.”

McFerran and many of the other players were asked to do media shortly after the disappointment of their World Cup final defeat three years ago, where they were asked to analyse the game and also express their emotions. She also did an interview yesterday from the team hotel in Amsterdam for sponsor Red Bull.

“It’s always hard,” said McFerran. “If you win a game or you lose a game because you are always in the emotional moment of the game. Sometimes it does take time just to reflect back on . . . did we perform, did we do our goals?

“At the World Cup I was not happy after the final, when I gave my interview. You have to train yourself to take a quick breath and not rush into answering what you guys are throwing at us.”

McFerran added that there should be red lines and that journalists should be held accountable for the questions they ask. Women are often asked about how they look and what they are wearing, some of it desired because they are wearing sponsors’ brands but also some of it unwanted.

“I believe no matter what you are wearing, what you look like, how you dress, your attitude, whatever,” she said.

“If you are there doing your job or what you are passionate about, what you put your graft into, that should be the main story. That should be the talking point and it shouldn’t be about anything else outside of that.”

Ireland have also had one forced change to the European squad. Sarah Torrans picked up a leg injury and will miss the championships. Deirdre Duke comes in bringing the total number of World Cup silver medals in the group to 13.

Torrans, who made her senior debut last year against Scotland, has had a wretched run and has now missed under-18, under-21 and senior European Championships through injury. Zara Malseed comes in as the travelling reserve to replace Duke.