Ailish and Eimear Considine shine in women’s sport
Space is proving an important frontier in exploring the limits of women in sport.
Decisions made on both sides of the world over the past year have shown that when given space, women’s sports can thrive.
In Australia, the AFLW season was largely isolated, rather than taking place in the shadow of the hugely popular AFL season.
The latter is in full swing now, but the women’s season ended in mid-April, when the men’s campaign was only four weeks old. And in the northern hemisphere, the Six Nations Women took place weeks after the male equivalent made headlines.
This made a virtue of necessity: The pressures caused by COVID-19 meant that the separation of the men’s and women’s competitions was a practical advantage, where previously the matches of the two took place on the same weekend. The evidence from both examples contained a lot of positive things and pointed the way to a more sustainable long-term plan.
Until now, women’s sport was thought to benefit from being played alongside its more established male counterparts, on the basis that a rising tide lifted all boats. But the reality was generally different, as the Six Nations examples showed. The men’s competition dominated the spring, and the women’s competition was indeed an afterthought.
There is now the prospect of a meaningful alternative, as the cases in Australia and Europe have shown. And Clare’s Considine sisters were major players in both cases.
Ailish Considine played in the AFLW Grand Final for the Adelaide Crows, where they lost to the Brisbane Lions, inspired by Tipperary’s Orla O’Dwyer. Her older sister Eimear is one of the stars of an Irish rugby team that endured a mixed Six Nations, recording victories over Wales and Italy but suffering a painfully heavy loss to France in between. .
Both were accomplished Gaelic footballers for Clare. It’s been a part of Eimear’s past as she joins the national team, as the chances of Ailish wearing the county colors this season are unclear; next season’s AFLW changes include an earlier start, requiring an earlier preseason, and therefore the likelihood that Irish players who are under contract with clubs in the league will have to leave for the Australia earlier than in previous years.
His desire to return to Adelaide seems clear. She won a grand final with the club in her first season in 2019, and overcame the obstacles posed by an extraordinary year to appear in her second final just a few weeks ago.
And she is clear on the importance of the women’s season having its own window for the development of the AFLW, which has just completed its fifth season.
“They had that in a little try this season, in terms of the end of the season and the start of the men’s season,” she said.
“I think it caused some logistical issues (previously) and a split attention base.
“That’s probably one of the main reasons they’ve moved the season forward, with a start date in September for the preseason and December for the actual season.
“The overlap (previously) was causing a bit of division in terms of the fans because you (had) games all weekend long, and if you chose between a men’s game and a women’s game, it was hard to get past it. ‘call.
“Having a split season is something that has worked really well for the AFLW, just to get it started and to make it work. It gives football fans in Australia something to do all year round because they are crazy about their football there.
It was the first season where adults were charged to attend AFLW games, with a $ 10 entry fee for the games. The games saw an average crowd of over 2,000, which is significant for a new league in a country where pandemic restrictions have been consistently very tight.
The outlook is obviously less sunny for women’s rugby in Ireland, but Eimear Considine believes the autonomous window for the Six Nations in late spring was important.
“This year we introduced a separate season which has worked wonderfully. I would like it to go back to the original five games, but I think the split season between the Six Nations women and men really worked.
“They do that in Australia where the women’s season ends and the men’s season begins, and I think it’s a really good season as well.”
Yet the loss to France at the Six Nations also raised a number of questions about the status of women’s rugby in Ireland.
Much of the attention has focused on Ireland’s amateur status compared to England, which is fully professional, and the semi-professional French.
IRFU performance director David Nucifora spoke earlier this week about the long-term work of expanding the base of women’s rugby in this country, and how that is key to growing the game and improving standards. Eimear, a regular full-back on the side, agrees.
“You have to be realistic,” she said.
“We are the lucky ones who were able to play rugby last year, when the club structures and provincial women’s football structures were not there.
“You have to think about how many girls you’ve lost in rugby in the past year to dropouts or it might not come back? “
“There’s no point in trying to make a women’s team when there are no players and to make ourselves pro when there are no players. It is really important to start with the club structures.
“You have Enya (Breen) from Skibbereen, Dorothy (Wall) from Fethard, Beibhinn (Parsons) from Ballinasloe and Emily Lane from Mallow.
“We are seeing the fruits of this miners’ work and these structures coming to the Irish team.
“You will see people flourish over the next few months and years. “
* Ailish and Eimear are supporting Aviva’s #LACEUPWITHPRIDE campaign, with Intersport Elverys. Buy Rainbow Laces for € 4 at elverys.ie, with all proceeds going to the LGBTI + BELONG To Youth Services charity.