It was an incredibly busy weekend in the sporting calendar with wall to wall coverage on TV from Wimbledon, Lords, Croke Park, Fitzgerald Stadium, Silverstone, Liverpool and hundreds more points on the scale.
A challenging environment for fans to stay on top of everything that was happening, in the best possible way, and also for media to give coverage to what all their readers, viewers and listeners might have an interest in.
Challenging but not impossible.
On Saturday morning, however, we were disappointed to see not a single word of coverage in the Irish Times on either the Ladies Football or Camogie All Ireland Championships that were getting underway or building a head of steam around the country.
Coverage in the Saturday Sports Supplement is always very good and there were excellent features around this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush, the Cricket World Cup Final at Lords with Ireland’s Eoin Morgan leading out England, on Wimbledon’s two Singles Finals and a full page on the Tour de France. There was front-page coverage that Johnny Sexton’s thumb sprain would not be bad enough to rule him out of Ireland’s rugby World Cup preparation games next month.
All of it good, all of it well written by talented journalists like Malachy Clerkin, Johnny Watterson, Keith Duggan, Emmet O’Riordan and Sean Moran but none of it related to the biggest events in Women’s Sport taking place in Ireland that same day.
I flicked through the pages, then flicked again, and again. As an advocate of Women’s sport and supporter of the 20X20 campaign, it is always closer to the top of our agenda than it is for many but there has been a sea change in the way that coverage has been stepped up.
The two Championships were covered in all the other mainstream media and featured prominently on radio bulletins and websites. There were features on Dublin getting the defence of their title underway against Waterford in the Ladies Football and Waterford taking on Clare in the Camogie.
They weren’t the biggest sporting story of the weekend but they were important.
The Irish Times though missed the beat. That it should do so on a weekend when the Dublin Men’s team featured the 20X20 logo on the front of their shirts in place of campaign supporter AIG, makes it even more of a miss.
The argument from an editorial perspective will be that the coverage is driven by what people are interested in and while tens of thousands will have gone to see the Men’s Championship fixtures the numbers were much smaller for the Women’s games.
But isn’t part of the problem that if they don’t see and hear coverage of the games then the public appetite will always be less.
The media is not obliged to cover any one sport over another and the editorial call may have been influenced during the week when the venue for some of the bigger matches was only decided on Wednesday morning but still, not a single word of coverage, really?
One of the phrases which backs up the 20X20 campaign is Can’t See, Can’t Be. If, as a woman or a young girl, or a Father or a brother, you can only see in the weekend paper that sits on the table that Gaelic Football is really just for men or that some All Ireland Championships are just worth more than others, then you believe at some level of subconscious thought that this is just the way it is and you move on.
Perhaps we are too harsh in calling out the Irish Times on this one occasion. They do after all support the Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sports Women of the Month and of the Year and are generally good at recognising the effort that goes into Women’s sport being equal to that of the Men’s.
They have done more than most over a long period of time to further the cause of Women’s Sport. And who are we as a niche online publication focused primarily on the commercial world of sport in Ireland to question how they craft their pages?
But if we don’t, then who will? Should we just shrug our shoulders and say ah sure it doesn’t really matter. Somehow that just doesn’t feel right.
The Women’s World Cup was covered on RTÉ and TG4 and backed up across all mainstream media not because it was the Women’s World Cup but because it was a world-class competition that deserved to be seen. The coverage was indicative of the new sense that sport is just as much for one gender as another and that even if it may not be faster or stronger, that it wins in other areas that merit attention.
That’s not political correctness, it’s just fairness.
Sometimes you just need to call things as you see them.