On the Town with Off The Ball

At the start of last night’s Off the Ball Women in Sport roadshow Nathan Murphy, having hot-footed it down from running another in Gweedore the night before mused on how it had always been so simple to attract more women to the roadshows. Inviting more women as guests was the answer and last night was some feast.

Over 500 tickets had been sold and while some may have decided it was too nice an evening to sit inside, they missed a barnstormer of a show.

Mary O’Connor’s multiple All Ireland winning medals are on display in the GAA Museum at Croke Park which is as secure and appropriate as you can get. Some of the other silverware that fellow panellists Sonia O’Sullivan, Annalise Murphy and Rena Buckley have amassed through their spectacular careers is a little looser in its housing. For obvious reasons we won’t reveal where Murphy’s Mum has hidden her silver medal from Rio but a word to the wise she might move it now that her daughter revealed the secret spot last night.

Rena Buckley’s are still in a bag waiting to be organised as promised by one of her former teammates. No pressure then.

Sonia O’Sullivan, who a show of hands revealed as being a hero in their youth for around 90 per cent of those in the room last night, generally keeps hers in Ireland though it has shuttled up and down to Australia on occasion, always to the wonder and amusement of airport security personnel.

That was some line up of stars for Nathan and his wing-woman Maire Treasa Ní Cheallaigh to get the best out of but that they did.

We learned that running was not really Mary O’Connor’s thing and also the profound insight that Buckley chose team over individual sport because “I just loved the craic.”

Sonia has mastered the art of uploading old video to Twitter so if you are not already following @soniaagrith then you should.

Annalise is also mastering the new trick of sharing a boat, with Katie Tingle and shared some of the bumps and spills that they have endured on their way to building what will hopefully become a Tokyo bound partnership.

Stephanie Roche and Louise Quinn reflected with intelligence and hope on the Women’s World cup and their hopes for Euro 2021 qualification and facing the USA in California on August 3rd.

They sat alongside Katie Walsh, Katie Harrington, her mum Jessica and Ted Walsh to chat about the expanding role of women in that sport as well.

Cliona Foley who presents the excellent Off The Bench Podcast bows to no one in her understanding of sport away from the brightest lights and one of the lasting memories of the night was her interviews with Sorcha Tiernan from Basketball and especially Nicole Lynch, Ireland’s leading woman motorcycle racer who will be hitting speeds of 180 miles per hour around Mondello park over the summer, who had to raise €50,000 of her own money to compete in Europe and who rides a bike that is shocking pink.

In a world of sport where engagement with fans has never been higher but where the fear of saying the wrong thing can sometimes make that engagement a bit vanilla, this was a brilliant night of laughter, insight, honesty and more.

Louise Quinn got one of the biggest cheers of the night when she said that “If you need to get something done you have to go to the women.”

Nathan was nodding in agreement there as the crowd roared their approval.

The night was made possible by Three and the 20X20 campaign. It was well worthwhile.


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