Some divides are wider than others – just ask Olivia’s father

THE perils of writing about women in sport are easily delineated, yet hard to avoid.

For the uninitiated, consider the problem as having three well-defined aspects, hence the clinical term: Craggy Island Syndrome.

The first error, the Father Ted form of the virus, leads one to gushing amazement at the prospect that women can actually, etc. — the ‘aren’t they all lovely girls’ trap.

The second error is a general bemusement at the existence of the other gender and can give rise to occasional bafflement when the subject is broached in any way. This is the Father Dougalvariation.

The third and final strain of this disease involves ignoring the phenomenon utterly as one not only beyond you but destined to remain forever mysterious: the Father Jack approach, in other words.

There is a far more virulent strain, known colloquially as Keys-Gray or Career Suicide, but such apocalyptic scenarios need not detain us here unduly.

Neither should experiences like this columnist’s last Saturday evening in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick when, while waiting for the hurlers of said county to warm down after their qualifier win, we had to listen to a couple of young ladies discuss Facebook and the Limerick captain. Loudly.

With all of the above in mind, however, we phoned Olivia O’Sullivan with a great deal of care. As the first woman to become a member of the committee of Young Munster rugby club she was a likely prospect for a chat a) because of her femininity and b) — far more puzzling given the context — her father is a Shannon supporter.

We’ll have to come back to that.

O’Sullivan’s elevation to the lofty heights of the smoke-filled committee room administration was a gradual process.

“I’d always been a rugby fan and started playing with Young Munster,” she says. “We won the All-Ireland Shield last year butit’s just been a great outlet. The camaraderie’s been fantastic, we went over to the Women’s World Cup in London last August, so we embraced it completely.”

Working in PR with TheCornstore restaurants, O’Sullivan’s nine to five was an asset for the club to draw on.

“I helped with fundraising and so forth for the women’s team. I got to know the lads in the club, there are great characters there and the banter was good, my fiance plays with the club . . .”

By the end of last year O’Sullivan was writing press releases for Young Munster, encouraged by Derek Tobin, the then-president, and coach Mike Prendergast. From then it was just a matter of formalising the arrangement.

So far so human-interest. At about this stage, however, ourchat with Olivia took a slightly different route.

“There are huge challenges facing clubs,” she said.

“The match gates have gone way down for AIL games, compared to the 90s, before the Munstermachine took off, when the crowds were enormous, particularly in Limerick. The numbers still turn out but it’s difficult for clubs.

“Volunteerism is hugely important as a result — for rugby, for all clubs, for all sports. It’s understandable that people can be slow to commit themselves to something, because a lot of people are struggling themselves, but I think you have to give a little back or we’ll all be in trouble.

“I don’t think members of the younger generation have to leave it, necessarily, to the older guys or to guys who have just retired to get into club administration or looking after teams and all of that.

“If all of us did a little rather than relying on a few to do a lot it’d be a lot easier for clubs.”

It’s a fair point, and one that applies across the board. The playing cohort in clubs in all codes, from late teens to early/late 30s can be busy enough work and family-wise without taking on another commitment, but many clubs would benefit from current players getting more involved in the pick-and-shovel work.

Anyway. Less of the preaching.

Whatever about the differences between men and women, differences which can be resolved and even obliterated by certain discreet establishments in Casablanca and Copenhagen which specialise in ‘reassignment’, the gulf between a father who supports Shannon and a daughter who is a Young Munster official would seem a chasm far too broad ever to be bridged.

“He took it well,” said O’Sullivan. “I even got him a present of a Young Munster tie. It went down okay, actually.”

O tempora! O mores! Or as they’d say on Craggy Island . . . that would be an ecumenical matter.

* Contact: Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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