Ladies’ game hits new heights

Jim O’Sullivan

The claim was made yesterday by the Association's Director-General, Helen O'Rourke, after Sports Minister John O'Donoghue formally launched the Suzuki 2005 National League at a reception in Cork Institute of Technology.

She said: "We have always said we were the fastest growing sport in recent years and now research in recent months shows we are. We are also the biggest women's sport in Europe."

This is relative to the numbers they have playing the game ight up through the ranks.

"We are providing a huge service within the country for young girls, keeping them involved in sport from a very early age right up until when they want to stop. The only problem is a lack of finance. We need the Government and the Sports Council to recognise we are a huge association and we require the funding to go along with that,'' she said.

"Three years ago I was the only full-time person involved. Now there are four full-time in the office (in Croke Park) and we have three full-time administrators in the province, with Munster about to come on board. We're moving in the right direction, but it's still not meeting the demand that's out there. That's where the funding comes in.''

According to Ms O'Rourke, there is "huge interest" world-wide in ladies football, indicated by entries already received for an international competition in the run-up to the All-Ireland final from North America, Canada, New York, Australia, Asia, Europe, the Rest of Britain and Scotland.

"The interesting thing about teams from places like Asia and Australia is they are largely built around home-bred players.''

Suzuki managing director Niall O'Gorman agreed their decision to again sponsor the competition was a vote of confidence in the game.

He said: "We're very pleased to be associated and delighted to see the response to the competition and the way the numbers and interest is growing.''

Ms O'Rourke said their support heightened the competition's profile.

* This year, 32 counties will be involved seven of whom will field two teams, while Dublin will be represented by three teams.

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