Camogie finally goes prime time with live quarter-finals

For the first time ever this afternoon, the All-Ireland camogie quarter-finals will be broadcast live on RTÉ, writes Eimear Ryan.
Camogie finally goes prime time with live quarter-finals

The double-header is at Semple Stadium, with Dublin facing Wexford at 5pm followed by Galway against Tipperary at 7pm.

Last year’s finalists, Kilkenny and Cork, await the winners in the semi-finals on August 19.

Wexford and Galway will be favourites, having come second in their respective groups and both being relatively recent All-Ireland winners — Wexford in 2012, Galway in 2013.

Wexford beat Tipp, Offaly, and Limerick in arguably the stronger of the two groups, but won’t be happy with their 18-point defeat to Cork in the third round. Having lost lynchpin Kate Kelly to retirement in June, the Leacys — Mary at centre back and Una at corner forward — are among their most steadying, experienced players, but newcomers Chloe Fox and Joanna Dillon are also shining in the attack.

Galway, meanwhile, beat all comers in Group 1 but for champions Kilkenny, with Orlaith McGrath (daughter of Hopper) providing crisp firepower up front. They’ll be hoping to strike the first blow in this weekend’s double-header.

Dublin will be underdogs against Wexford, but David Herity’s team will take heart from victories over Clare and Waterford in the group stages, and by the fact that as recently as this year’s league they enjoyed a five-point victory over Wexford.

Twenty-year-old goalkeeper Faye McCarthy has scored an incredible 1-15 in the championship so far; her deadly accurate long-range frees should keep Dublin within touching distance at the very least.

Tipp, meanwhile, made it to the quarters by the skin of their teeth, advancing on a single point in score difference. Their victory over Offaly two weekends ago was their first win in the championship, but with it, all their stars aligned: they got the required three-point margin to leapfrog Offaly in the table, and Wexford duly beat Limerick to allow Tipp to go through. Despite losses to Cork, Limerick, and Wexford, Tipp racked up decent scores in each of their games, with Cait Devane and Orlagh O’Dwyer particularly effective up front.

Unconventional though their route to the quarter- finals was, Tipp are on home turf and will be throwing everything they have at Galway.

If you can, go to Thurles. It’s to be a sunny evening; you’ll get two must-win matches for the price of one; and best of all, U18s get in free. Having said that, I couldn’t be happier that the games will be televised (did I mention that it’s for the first time ever?).

For years, camogie fans have looked enviously at the LGFA and their excellent, comprehensive coverage on TG4 and wondered: Why not us? Last year was the first time that even the semi-finals were televised live. To go from one game broadcast to five in the space of two years is a huge jump in terms of visibility, and I’m delighted for these elite players who are all too used to playing to bare stands.

This weekend, they’ll have an audience.

Small things demonstrate the gulf between being an inter-county hurler and an inter-county camogie player. A recent exchange on The Sunday Game after the brief camogie segment demonstrates this. Jackie Tyrell, who has emerged as a smart and incisive pundit since hanging up his boots, made an off-hand comment that the Kilkenny camogie team would have been watching the weekend’s action closely with a view to their own fixture the following weekend. But the match wasn’t televised; the three minutes shown on The Sunday Game was likely the only insight the Kilkenny players were going to get.

TV coverage is an indelible part of elite sport now. It’s almost unimaginable for a hurler to go out to play a team without having watched them perform or having access to in-depth analysis. But for camogie players, trying to get a sense of how their opposition plays is a mixum-gatherum of word-of-mouth, local radio, and the diligent live-tweeting of games by county PROs. Bare-bones coverage — or none at all — is just the norm.

Maybe it’s a blessing in a way. There are certainly fewer angry tweets in the women’s codes.

Controversial incidents generally aren’t slowed down and analysed frame by frame. Former Cork ladies’ football manager Eamonn Ryan remarked that there was a lot less pressure on his female charges. If they went out and lost a league final or a Munster final, there was no media outcry or talking down of the players. Very often, this allowed them to rebound from the odd defeat; the lack of scrutiny might even have been a factor in their extraordinary streak of 11 All-Irelands in 12 years.

Lack of coverage can mean lack of pressure, but it can also be interpreted as lack of encouragement. That’s one extraordinary statistic that emerged from a recent campaign by Lidl to highlight its sponsorship of the LGFA. According to its research, one out of every two teenage girls drops out of team sport; girls are three times more likely to drop out of sports than boys; and seven out of ten girls report ‘lack of encouragement’ as one of their main reasons for quitting.

When the research also highlights the fact that girls who play a team sport are four times more likely to be confident in their bodies and 80% more likely to have a positive mental outlook, the value of encouraging girls to play sport is clear. When you consider the pressures on young people in general, and teenage girls in particular, we can’t continue to allow young female players to slip through the cracks.

Broadcasting games is one way of counteracting this. In fairness to The Sunday Game, they’ve been making a good effort to seed in women analysts alongside the lads of late, with Wexford’s Mags D’Arcy (taking a year out from goalkeeping duty) and Galway’s Anne Marie Hayes especially impressive. It’s nice to see something other than a lineup of suits in studio. This afternoon’s coverage will feature no suits at all, with Joanne Cantwell joined in studio by Galway’s Aisling Connolly, Cork’s Anna Geary, Kilkenny’s Elaine Aylward, and Tipp’s Jill Horan. Not only will young women get to watch sports heroes of their gender on TV, they’ll get to see an all-female panel of experts debate the finer points of the games. I’d call that a win-win.

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