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14 Aug 2022

The Last Point: Timing is the key to more exposure

The Last Point: Timing is the key to more exposure

Mohill's Dearbhaile Beirne of Peamount United Picture: Stephen McCarthy Sportsfile

Timing, as anyone who has ever played any sort of sport at any sort of level, is often the key to success - the split second that turns failure into glory or conversely, turns dreams into dust but maybe timing, in a different sense, may be the key to female sports finding the audience they truly deserve.
It's often the bugbear of Ladies sports organisations that they just don't receive the same coverage their male counterparts get and that's a bristly thorn to grasp because, no more than your parents telling you to eat your vegetables, no amount of well meaning PR campaigns can move the dial when it comes to viewer's preferences on TV.
The 2020 campaign “If she can't see it, she can't be it” got a tremendous amount of publicity last year but I wonder did sporting organisations take note of the message, which seemed to be intended more for media outlets and the general public because time and time again, we are seeing clashes of events and games that might have been avoided by better scheduling or innovative timing.
Proof of the pudding lies in the Women's European Soccer championships taking place in England right now - games are being covered live on RTE and BBC, Sky have literally wheeled out a double decker bus for their experts to go around the venues and the championships are reaching the public consciousness in a sustained way, probably for the first time.
Much of that is down to the soccer authorities bargaining hard for the women's games to be shown but some of it happy happenstance - the fact that the Men's World Cup takes place next November and December instead of in its usual slot means that the Summer of sport which would have been dominated by the world's biggest sporting event is suddenly wide open.
Granted UEFA have brilliantly taken advantage and the sight of women's matches in prime time mid-week slots is priceless in the marketing of the women's game. Would it have received the same coverage if the Men's World Cup had already taken place this Summer, compressing broadcasting schedules much more than they are? Probably not as the Irish Women's hockey team found out when they wondered why their World Cup games weren't being televised.
Timing has got to be a consideration for sporting organisations when they are all clamouring for greater exposure - speaking purely from this paper's viewpoint, there is a finite amount of space available each week and the more events that are squeezed into the same timeframe means that everyone suffers and that goes for local radio or television - we can only accommodate so much content at one time.
It is no coincidence that the final stages of the three great American team sports - baseball, American Football and basketball - all come to a conclusion at different times of the year. The NFL doesn't try to compete with the NBA Playoffs and nobody goes up against the “Fall Classic”, the name given to baseball's World Series.
The Yanks implicitly understand “If she can't see it, she can't be it” mantra as exposure is vital to promoting any sport - Rhasidat Adeleke, mentioned in this column last week, finished an astonishing ninth in the world over 400m at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, not even her favourite event, but unless you watched the coverage in the middle of the night or the nightly recaps on BBC2, you wouldn't be aware of the young Tallaght woman's extraordinary performances.
Dearbhaile Beirne's picture is at the top of this page, the Mohill woman part of the FAI's effort to expand coverage of the Womens SSE Airtricity League - ten games will appear on TG4 this year as they fully understand that promoting the sport leads to tangible benefits in terms of profile, sponsorship, income and, not least, attracting the next generation of players.
That partly explains why I think the LGFA and even our own Leitrim LGFA have missed a trick this Summer with the timing of this year's competitions. Right now, pretty much everyone in the GAA world is giving out the inter-county season is over way too soon and I believe the Ladies inter-county game could have filled that void.
Next Sunday, the Ladies season reaches its finale when Croke Park hosts the All-Ireland triple header of Junior, Intermediate and Senior finals just a week after the Men's final, as they have always done, but I wonder what sort of coverage the knockout stages or even the group stages would have received if they were not competing with the race for Sam and Liam for coverage, let alone every other sport out there?
If the Ladies Final were held the last week of August - not too late by any means and with plenty of time to finish the club season - they'd have had a complete monopoly on GAA media and what might that have done for the game?
Both Ladies Senior semi-finals received barely half a page each in the national newspapers but they were competing with the concluding stages of hurling and football championships at that time, not to mention Ireland's heroics in New Zealand. But imagine the boost the Ladies game would have got with interviews, stories and profiles during the month of August when GAA correspondents would have been screaming out for stories to fill their pages?
The proof is in the emergence of Meath Ladies in the public consciousness - I remember chatting to a couple of Leitrim Ladies about Meath before they played them in the 2020 Intermediate competition and the whispers they had heard about Vicki Wall. The Meath star wasn't well known but now everyone in the GAA world knows her as she prepares for next Sunday's Senior Final and a new career in the AFLW in Australia.
Timing is everything and in the past few weeks, I've wondered aloud why Leitrim Ladies didn't start their club championships a few weeks ago. The County Ladies exited the championship on June 12, but our club championships won't start until Sunday August 21, and I think they've missed a trick.
I'll stipulate that the Ladies Board may have assumed, with a great deal of confidence, that Hugh Donnelly's side would have reached at least the quarter-finals and maybe a lot further so leaving the time free was a wise decision but if you are looking for the greatest possible exposure from both media and the general public, being the only show in town has huge advantages!
In basic terms, “If she can't see it, she can't be it” is the same argument as “Build it and they will come” - if you want to promote any sport, you need to maximise the promotional opportunities at your disposal. The GAA don't have to worry about the All-Ireland Finals - they'll sell out. Neither do the IRFU and Ireland's rugby internationals, there is no need of cut priced promotional tickets there.
But if Ladies sport get their timing right, there's an audience out there they haven't tapped yet and then we're on the right road to give these stars the exposure they deserve.

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