LIKE with many aspects of our society, the world of sport has historically assumed a ‘male default’.
Women in sport have long stood by the side lines, waiting for their moment to come into play. Even the terms ‘women’s football’, ‘women’s athletics’, and ‘women’s — or sometimes ladies’ — tennis’, assume that there is something unusual, against the norm about a woman picking up a racket or running on to the pitch (we never hear it referred to as ‘men’s football’ after all).
In recent years, however, women in Ireland and internationally have worked tirelessly to change this perception and uproot the tired prejudices they have likely faced throughout their entire sporting career.
What’s more, sportswomen are beginning to have more and more influence than ever, whether that be on the pitch, through their activism work, or through popular women’s trainer collaborations.
In 2019, the funding was finally starting to reflect the talent of women in the sporting world, while media coverage and public interest was beginning to peak.
We saw undeniable evidence of this during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Google search trends around the term ‘women’s football’ saw an unprecedented spike during June 2019, proving that, when given the airtime, the public are keen to engage with and support women in sports.
The world of women’s sport is, like the rest of the industry, currently undergoing a crisis.
With Covid-19 bringing sport to a shuddering standstill this year, the momentum that was growing around women in sport last year is in danger of falling flat.
What’s more, while men’s sport is looking to get back on track as soon as possible, women’s sport is facing a lengthier lockdown.
Recent announcements have even confirmed that Brazil has withdrawn its tournament hosting bid for the Women’s World Cup in 2023.
Commenting on this, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson said, “we can’t just rush to get men’s sport back and not think about women’s sport. There has to be a balance and diversity, otherwise some of the strides women have made could be lost.”
Luckily, there are plenty of inspiring female sports stars in Ireland and elsewhere who have taken it upon themselves to keep the momentum going and keep spectators optimistic for what the future of Irish sports will hold.
Unapologetically demanding our attention, these women have been inspiring fans everywhere over the past few years.
Needless to say, the most influential women in Irish sport aren’t going anywhere.
Here are the ones to watch in post-lockdown women’s sport:
This rising star has shot from success to success over recent years, and she’s certainly still got a lot to give! The Dublin-born 22-yeard-old, won an impressive bronze medal in the 800m in the U23 European Championships last summer, but she is also extremely accomplished in the 1,500m category. Earlier this year, she secured her first senior national title at the Indoor Track and Field Championships, smashing her personal best in the 800m with a time of 2.05.62.
As well as excelling on the athletics track, Power is engaged with social activism and has spoken out about racism within sport. She has called for the conversation surrounding racism in sport to continue, and for people to listen, speak out, and educate themselves.
While Katie Taylor originally began her sporting career as a footballer, she is now most famous for her success in the boxing ring. Taylor was born in County Wicklow to an Irish mother and an English father, both of whom became heavily invested in her boxing career, with her dad, Peter, becoming her full-time-coach, and her mum, Bridget, becoming one of the first female referees and judges in Ireland.
Taylor’s career has already been phenomenal — as well as being a two-weight world champion, she is the current undisputed lightweight champion and was a gold medal winner (in the lightweight division) at the London 2012 Olympic Games, as well as being Ireland’s flagbearer.
Since then, Taylor has continued to be at the top of her game, and will be defending her WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine lightweight world titles in a rematch against Delfine Persoon on August 22.
Síofra Cléirigh Büttner
At only 25, Síofra Cléirigh Büttner has already made an impressive name for herself as a prominent Irish middle-distance runner. Beginning her career at a young age, she won a silver medal in the girls’ 1500m during the 2011 European Youth Olympics and has since competed in many prestigious championships, including the 2017 World Championships in Athletics. In 2016, she was named the Athletics Ireland Under-23 Athlete of the Year and has had an impressive collegiate career in the United States after moving there to study.
After captaining the Irish Women’s Hockey team to unprecedented success, Katie Mullan has reached ‘hero status’ in the world of Irish sport. In 2018, she captained the team that made it to the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup final. After this silver medal success, Irish Hockey fans will be on the edge of their seats when the all-star team heads off to Tokyo for the rescheduled Olympic Games next year. Mullan is no stranger to international competition and she started her competitive hockey career young, playing in the Singapore Youth Olympics in 2010. The future of Irish women’s hockey looks extremely bright, especially with Mullan leading the way.
In recent years, Irish women have shown resilience, power, and breath-taking talent throughout the world of sport. Although times are uncertain for the sports sector as a whole, these inspiring women are sure to bounce right back — they’ve already battled through adversity time and time again and inspired women across Ireland, and internationally.
There’s no doubt that they’ll be ready to get back into action in the post-lockdown world.