Updated: March 8th, 2023

If She Can’t See It…

(From Oakleafers Matchday Programme 04/03/23)

By Orlagh Mullan

In a few days’ time, Twitter feeds across the country will be flooded with ‘#IWD2023’.

The hashtag is part of the annual International Women’s Day that happens every March 8th (fellas reading this, I dare you to ask your partner, mother, sister etc when International Men’s Day is – although I’m not responsible for any injuries incurred as a result).

Don’t worry, I promise I’m not about to use my 800 word allocation to start arguing and ranting and bashing all that is wrong with the world and its inequalities – this definitely isn’t the platform for that – but rather to take this opportunity to shine a light on the brilliant women that we all have in our lives.

When Jarlath Burns succeeded in winning the vote to become GAA President at Congress a few weeks ago, in an interview immediately afterwards he said one of his biggest ambitions when he takes up office is to oversee the ongoing amalgamation process of the GAA with the Ladies Football and Camogie Associations. We all know the plethora of topics and issues that faces Jarlath when his term kicks off next year, so to hear that uniting the associations was so high on the agenda for the Armagh man would have been music to many people’s ears. Jarlath also talked about the pillars of the GAA and ensuring that we nurture them – one of which is our volunteers. In writing this I hope to draw some attention to the women across our clubs and our Games who keep everything ticking over. From the coaches helping to fulfil the dreams of young boys and girls to the kit washers to the committee members to the referees (who we wouldn’t have a game without) to the mammies dropping the wains off for training and standing freezing on the sideline for every game, and everyone in between. To the growing number of women who are part of management teams, playing their part in getting the best out of their players. It’s been great to see more female coaches involved at the older and senior age grades of men’s football and hopefully one day that will be so normal it isn’t even worth commenting on. (And for the record, a big shout out to all the men doing the same jobs I have listed – every one of our volunteers all put in a selfless shift week in, week out but I’m just trying to keep with the theme…)

If you’ll allow me to divulge in a bit of self-interest to finish off, I can say from my own perspective that the GAA has provided nothing but a supportive community to me.

Orlagh Mullan (back right) was on the first Steelstown Ladies Football team to achieve silverware

From I first started kicking a ball at primary school age with Steelstown Brian Óg’s to my role up until recently as a local sports journalist.

As someone who hates nothing more than standing out, being the only woman in the press box or a post-match interview scrum was something I probably would have shuddered at the thought of as a youngster, but throughout my scribing time I was welcomed with open arms – not only by the highly talented journalists that we are fortunate to have here, but also by club members, players, volunteers and supporters alike. And, trust me, that was not the case in every sport or ground that I dealt with.

We hear plenty of social commentary about the introduction of more women into sports punditry and while some of the criticisms are certainly warranted, it’s clear that for a lot of people there remains a ‘sport is for men’ attitude. In my career I always believed that people were fully entitled to disagree with me – and they could very well be right to do so – but if the only basis of their disagreement was that I didn’t know what I was talking about purely because of my gender, then the argument was already lost.

Whether it be our Derry camogs and footballers striving for Croke Park each year, the Republic of Ireland soccer team heading to their first World Cup, Katie Taylor dominating everyone she steps in a ring with, Leona Maguire shooting the golf lights out, Ciara Mageean flying around the athletics track, Rachael Blackmore adding to the racing trophy cabinet, or one of the other many female role models we have, I hope that all the young girls in the crowd today keep believing that they can achieve anything that they want to. Train hard, make new friends, dream big, and, most of all, enjoy every second.

“Here’s to Strong Women: May We Know Them. May We Be Them. May We Raise Them.”