Saturday, December 27, 2014

Together from Cedar Crest's basketball team

American college Cedar Crest sent me this 'get up and play' video this week - their women's basketball doing a version of the Nike 'Together - Lebron James clip. 

Remember chocolate and cake is great but you'll feel better after some fresh air. 

Thanks Josh Tehonica for sending this to me. Great motto too for the college - Bold Education, Bold Women Bold Futures. 


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!
Santa Dash in Galway via FLICKR

Thank you all so much for reading and supporting my efforts to promote women in sport this year! 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, or a Happy Holiday if you are not that way inclined.

Here's to a few days of eating and relaxing with the people we love - and back to the sports grindstone with even more energy in January. Best way to beat the winter blues is to get out there and make endorphins ... but you know that already, don't you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Awakening MuayThai Awards 2014

This is the time of year for voting in as many polls as you have time to fit in. Awakening is a great supporter of women's fighting and this is a good chance to see who they rate. 

You can vote on Best Fighter, Best Newcomner, Best Photographer and on a wider scale Best Promoter and a few other areas of our sport that we don't always remember to appreciate. It's a fairly international field so you should know at least a handful of people from each section.

I did my bit this morning. You can vote here in the MuayThai Awards 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

FIghters in the ring, friends after

PIC via FB

This is what it looks like when fighters hang out after kicking each other about the ring for a few rounds. On the left is Israeli fighter Adi Rotem who beat Ferial 'Felix' Ameeroeiden in Dublin at the latest Enfusion bouts. 

As always it was a pleasure to see two skilled and talented women fighters kicking ass - and stunning some of the crowd. There's always someone who has never seen female fighters before, and sits there with that 'yeah, whatever' face soon to be changed.  

Lots of great photos by David Fogarty on Rotem's FB page from that night. 

And here's the two of them in a line-up from Enfusion Thailand last September - fighters from around the world were invited for a knock-out contest. Click on the picture for more images.

Ameeroeiden leans aginst the tree, Rotem is 2nd from right


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: The Breakaway from Olympic cyclist Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke wins Gold at Beijing PIC AP via The Telegraph
Do you know Nicole Cooke? You should if you have or want to have an interest in women’s sport, but especially if you’re interested in clean sport.

The Welsh cyclist retired last year with a screamer of a retirement statement laying bare the hypocrisy of doping and blatant discrimination against female riders. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for the sports fan in your life, a copy of “The Breakaway” will ignite a few fireside chats.

So who is Cooke? Starting in 1994 with British Youth titles, and peaking with Gold at the Beijing Olympics, she claimed numerous World Championships and World Cup first places, UCI No 1 ranking, race and stage wins in the Giro and other races along the way.

Impressed yet? In her own words most of this was achieved in spite of rather than because of support from the official world of British cycling. And as a clean rider, the race was often lost before the starter’s pistol.

She wrote about her first setbacks on the international scene: “It didn’t really matter how many times I beat the WCPP (World Class Performance Programme) riders. They were on the WCPP, coached by the WCPP coaches and managed by the WCPP management. I was a schoolgirl. If they sent me to Sydney (Olympics), they would be telling the rest of the world they were wasting the Lottery-playing public’s money. They were wasting it, but did not want to admit it.”

This post on teases out the backroom intrigue of her Beijing medal. However Cooke raises a key question – why is the well-funded Team SKY an all-male outfit? 

BSkyB came on board after Beijing but simply ignored the female riders, and it seems this was accepted by the cycling authorities.

Cooke writes: “I didn’t need a crystal ball to predict that, by the time of writing six years later, while millions have been poured into a system to convert the male non-finishers at Beijing and Varese into world beaters, virtually nothing has come the way of the female road riders whether it was Emma, Lizzie, Sharon or me.”
PIC via MailOnline

Alongside comes the steady beat of injuries, and sadly of court battles to get paid. Also the devastating impact of doping.

Canadian Geneviève Jeanson was a great rival but in 2007 admitted using EPO since she was 16. Male riders like Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis smashed the sport’s reputation.

Cooke writes: “As Floyd grabbed the headlines … Thomas (team manager) was rightly livid as his sponsors for 2007 walked away. It is very difficult to think about the consequences.”

And later: “It is these unknown riders who are the victims” remembering clean riders disillusioned and quitting. 
The technicalities of cycling are sometimes difficult to grasp for the layman reader, but you’re cheering for her to win with every turn of the page.

Graeme “The Flying Scotsman” Obree wrote in a powerful foreword: “Nicole was a trailblazer who forged a path that was clearly defined for the male riders but equally she struggled to get women’s cycling treated seriously in the UK, and there were many barriers placed in her way.”

A competitor to the last Cooke ends graciously: “I couldn’t have had the career, the fun and the ups and downs without any of you. Sometimes I won, more often I lost. There is nothing I loved more than a rival who would not give me an inch.”

It’s a shame for women’s cycling and sport that more often than not her biggest rivals were not clearly visible.

You can order “The Breakaway” through Cooke’s website and follow Cooke on Twitter.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Speed Sisters in Palestine

Speed Sisters

When you see Tanya Habjouqa's photographs of cars drifting in the West Bank it takes a moment to realise the drivers are women. When I did, I flicked quickly back to the start to really understand what I was seeing.

Speed Sisters ( postcard above from the promotional material) is a short film by Amber Fares created around those women. The promo reads: "The Speed Sisters are the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East. They’re bold. They’re fearless. And they’re tearing up tracks all over Palestine."

Premiering at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha this week, you can find out more at: Speed


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taylor joins Mary Kom to take five boxing world titles

So once again Katie Taylor has taken a record and made it her own - joining Mary Kom on a select list of boxers with five world titles. Picked off consecutively no less.

Yana Allekseva, Katie Taylor and Yin Junhua PIC Doug McDermott

Watching someone stay compeditive over so a long period of time, taking on the 'young Turks' and winning over and over is inspiring. Even if you have no interest in boxing whatsoever (really, not even a drop?) you have to agree this is a supreme sporting achievement.

Indian fighter Mary Kom did it before her over two weight-divisions. They who know all said that could not be equalled but it speaks to the growing strength of women's fighting that records tumble.

Mary Kom with her bling

" “You are a fifth-time world champion. Only one other person in the history of this sport has achieved that,” said RTÉ’s Hugh Cahill. Pete, her father, was standing by her side.

Her head jerked back, her sinking eyes filled, and Katie Taylor stood there in the Halla Gymnasium in Jeju City, South Korea, mute and overthrown with emotion.

She threw her head back and as the tears welled up; she couldn’t speak. For perhaps 20 seconds we watched on as intruders in her unguarded moment as she made a nonsense of the week-long talk of the cold mechanics of how to win fights."


Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Boxing can be cruel" as Irish team has mixed fortunes in Korea

Irish team at the AIBA world champs PIC via
The AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships continue in Korea this week with some great fights popping up all over the internet. 

It used to be that women's boxing existed in a shadowy corner of said internet. But add the influence of the London Olympics and the reach of social media networks like Twitter together and you get pretty decent coverage. 

In Ireland we're lucky in having Katie Taylor going for her fifth title, and three other great battlers in Michaela Walsh, Joanne Lamb and Claire Grace.

Walsh's Twitter feed has carried her raw feelings out to fans, no filter. 

She started with this: "Weigh in on Sunday for World Championships! Can't come quick enough I hate all this waiting about I just wanna get in and fight!!👊"

Then: "The road to Gold starts for me on Tuesday. I box Jamaica, can't wait to get in and do the job! This is my time🙌🙏 #worldchampion2014"

And: "First fight at the Worlds and I got the win! In control & gave her 2 counts. Good performance, next up Azerbaijan on Thursday.. lets go!!🍀"

Only to sadly finish with this today: "Gutted 2 say I lost on a split decision when I was clearly the more dominate boxer & knocked her down in the last round. Boxing can be cruel"

One of the Irish papers carried an in-depth piece on Taylor at the weekend, read it here online. She pays tribute to Indian boxer Mery Kom - at present the only woman boxer to hold five world titles. 

I was privileged to see both of them fight in London and look forward to see many more young champions coming from these games as we move towards Rio2016.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vote Stephanie Roche for FIFA Goal of the Year

PIC via FAI Twitter

Every year FIFA chooses the best ten goals from the thousands scored around the world in amateur and professional matches. 

This year's final group contains a shaky-cam video of a goal scored by an amateur Irish female player in front of a crowd of ... dozens. Stephanie Roche plays with Peamount United, and she scored this cracker against Wexford Youths in October last year.

Have a look and please vote here on the FIFA page if you like what you see - one giant step for women in sport to see her judged on a par with male players. And even more exciting as this was an amateur match and Roche pulled off a goal to equal players paid millions for their work.

FIFA Ballon d'Or 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: GAA and women

I was up in Croke Park - national stadium for the GAA sports of hurling and football recently. Delighted to spot this on the Christmas poster - a girl dressed up in a Dublin shirt.

Small steps, small steps ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When women in sport met the Web Summit

Dubliner Emily Glen spoke at the Web Summit about women in sport recently. Her Twitter comments on feedback really made me smile. In a grim the-world-is-so-sexist-it-doesn't-even-know kind of smile.

For those you might not know the Web Summit is a rather large gathering of tech-heads in Dublin, and when I say large I mean more than 20,000 attendees over a few days of madness.

The tech-world is generally so far removed from being female-friendly that it's just not funny. One of the companies at this year's event sold bags emblazoned with: 'I don't put my sextapes on the Cloud.' Bit of a nasty reference there to women who are in this company's view stupid enough to trust the security on their Cloud services. (from Colin McGovern's Twitter)

But somehow Glen got in with an impressive speech.

It begins like this:  "My name is Emily Glen.  I am an amateur runner, recently completed my second marathon. I’m a sports fan and general sports enthusiast. I write about sport and social issues on the world’s least influential blog. I also happen to be a woman.

I wouldn’t have been able to introduce myself in this way 50 years ago. For a lot of reasons, chief among them I wouldn’t have been able to allowed to run a marathon 50 years ago. 50 years ago, we as sports fans wouldn’t have been able to cheer on Jess Ennis – Hill in the Olympics, the Irish Women’s rugby team as they took on New Zealand this summer, or Caroline Wozinack as she completed the New York Marathon on Sunday - because 50 years ago women weren’t allowed to compete to these standards."

You can read the rest on her blog  For The Long Run

But what caught my eye was her tweet that so many people were baffled women in sport could be a problem.  People asked her what she was going to talk about?
These are the people who see those headline figures Glen references and think that means everything is OK So it's good to see someone speaking at this type of event and raising those questions.

We talk about that invisibility bug on this blog all the time. And the more it gets talked about in other fourms, the more likely it is that at some point in time being healthy and strong will be seen as normal for girls - just like it is for boys today.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Highlights from UFC: Aisling Daly vs Angela Magana

Update to my earlier post on TUF battle between  Aisling Daly and Angela Magana.

Highlights now online at the UFC YouTube channel. Commentary includes: "Conditioning is definitely a weapon in this game".


Thursday, October 30, 2014

TUF getting closer to crowning a women's champion

Irish MMA fighter Aisling Daly took on American Angela Magana in the latest bout in The Ultimate Fighter last night. 

Daly was under a lot of pressure to deliver as she's less well known in the States than the other compeditors. She's publicly admitted she puts herself under more pressure than anyone else and has struggled with anxiety. Although Daly has also wryly commented on the effect of the dry Nevada heat compared to her home in Dublin (yes, it does rain that much here).

But she lived up to her promise, taking the win in the 3rd round. The Bleacher Report described it as:"a surprisingly strong performance".

That fight went out on Fox Sport which unfortunately I don't have access to - there's a limit to how many channels you can pile on to your bill before it gets ridiculous. 

The video doesn't seem to be available online yet, no doubt waiting till the full season is done. There are however some great photos here on TUF channel; a story in pictures if you like.  


Friday, October 24, 2014

Do you wear makeup doing sport?

MuayThai angels Thai boxing makeup Kelly Creegan
MuayThai fighter Kelly Creegan made up for a promo MuayThai Angels and fighting au naturel

Do you wear makeup when doing sport? Hmm, this is a bigger question than it might seem.

No matter how hardcore you are, everyone wants to look good in those Winner Winner shots. And while a few years ago you would have  had a few minutes to scape the sweaty hair back and declog your eyes, now it's instant so what's a girl to do? 

Irish fighter Kelly Creegan is facing this problem on a grand scale in Bangkok now. She's taking part in the 'Muaythai Angels' series which is an all-women show with heavy glam emphasis. 

I posted about the MuayThai Angels here before. But for a real in-the-middle-of-it look at the series, read Creegan's latest post on her blog 'It's Pandemonium'.

She writes: "(my friends) were adamanent that the girls all wore makeup at the last show, so freaking out i go and scroll through the photos of the Muay Thai Angels event and there ya go black smudges under the girls eyes after the fights" 

The post follows her thought process as she works out how mascara and fighting go hand in hand in Thai eyes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bodypaint shocker Down Under with Women's Health

Regular readers will know I often bemoan the lack of an Irish or British magazine as good as the Australian editon of Women's Health

So you might understand how taken-aback I was to read WH had semi-naked bodypainted models parading around at the 'I support women in sport awards' in Sydney.  Yes, all women. Why, why, why WH ? 

Well, the Sydney Morning Herald asked the magazine's editor and this was her reply: 

'It is disappointing that this has become the focus rather than the phenomenal sporting talents of our Australian female athletes', Felicity Harley said. 

How can she be surprised this became the focus when her whole magazine is about celebrating women as athlethes and sports-fans rather than as sexualised bodies? I understand that glamour sells, but this red carpet was already packed with lots of glamour - the women being honoured. 

It might sound superficial but female athlethes do tend to look good, all that professional elite level sport doesn't usually produce body shapes which look  bad in a fancy dress. So considering the event was going to get lots of photo-coverage anyway, was this really neccessary? 

How bad was it? This bad: 

Pic via

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Do you swim in the sea during winter?

How are you not cold? (Photo: Kevin Meredith) via The Telegraph
The seas around Ireland are not quite as cold as in this shot yet, but there's a definite nip in the water. And of course in the air afterwards when you try to get dressed but suddenly your fingers are claws and nothing pulls on properly. 

On Sunday we went swimming in an inviting-looking sea but it took only a few shaky breaths to realise it's wetsuit time. For us that is. For some of the older swimmers where we go, the water is only ever bracing or nippy never freezing. 

When I say older we're talking into their 70s, even one 81-year old who swims three or four times a week. Not a scrap of neoprene in sight. 

These people are simply inspiring. Men and women, they trot down the jetty, hang their bags off a rock, pull on a swimming-hat, and stroll into the water as if they're on a Mediterranean beach. There's no squealing or screaming, no splashing just a small business-like dip of the head under the waves and they're off.

They may not swim the long distances the triathlon-addicts who share the beach do, but they come every week rain or shine. They smile and laugh at younger folk, and are always ready to share their wisdom on jelly-fish or the tides. No question is too stupid, but they can't refrain from a gentle dig at how we dress for their beloved sea. 

Do you swim outdoors in the winter, or move inside to the lanes of a swimming pool?

Monday, October 6, 2014

What drives you to get up and train?

Katie Taylor looking to be the best female boxer in the world, and Irish rugby player Paul O'Connell looking to be the best male rugby player in the world.

Toyota have brought them together in a fascinating look behind the scenes at training in both sports and what drives them to get to the top and stay there.


Friday, October 3, 2014

In need of a Friday inspiration?

Feeling a bit lazy? If you're in need of a kick to get out and hang with Mother Nature this weekend, this video should do it.

Biking, sufing, snowboarding, skiing and ... umm street-art, it's all here. Directed by Julian Mazard, it was made for a project called 'What Girls Want'.

(do though take a moment to ponder on why the surfer's shot is set up as the start rather than any of the others.)


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: 'The Race to Truth' Emma O'Reilly's cycling life

A gripping read 
Imagine you spend your working life on a sports-team where there is one super-star, someone burning brighter than everyone else, someone you have a good relationship with, you think. 

Then you learn he cheated his way to all that stardom, you speak out for love of your sport, and he attacks you, grossly insults you.

Could you forgive him? Could you move on and write a book that reveals everything but also shows a rare magnanimity of spirit?

I'm not sure I could to be honest. But former soigneur (masseuse, fixer, general hold-the-team-up person) to the US Postal cycling team Emma O’Reilly has done just that.

Her book ‘The Race to Truth’ is simply gripping. Even if you have no interest in racing, this is a woman worth knowing.

You read how her passion for cycling began in her home-town of Dublin.

O’Reilly is clearly very close to her family, well-grounded and well-prepared for reality of competitive racing, and a career she descibes as exhausting, and frenetic. Her story and photographs as she becomes the only female soigneur on the Tour de France would be fascinating even without what she took on later.

But who could be prepared for the extent of the doping in that team, and others in the peloton? Who could be prepared for young men dying of heart attacks having sprinted up mountains without breaking a sweat?

O’Reilly vividly describes cyclists almost flying up steep mountains, and one man finishing a stage only to casually leap over the barricades afterwards. A more normal reaction would have been to collapse in need of liquid or oxygen or a massage, or preferably all three at once.

She talks of carrying doping material across borders, of hearing others doing it and how it slowly takes over the sport. As I read, it was impossible to see how the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) could not have noticed the records falling, the condition of the cyclists.She even writes how some cyclists started wearing dark sunglasses while racing to cover their dilated pupils.

The final chapters where she calmly describes how Armstrong attacked her, saying she was an alcoholic, first implying she was sleeping around, and then outright calling her a ‘whore’ - these are the pages which show you how strong O’Reilly is.

It’s jaw-dropping stuff, and then she finds something inside her bigger than all of it - and forgives him even before he asks it of her. She sees through his media-games, wanting her to say ‘I forgive you’ before his appearance on Oprah, and genuinely finds it within herself to move on and remember their friendship. She has done this so successfully he's written the foreword to her book. 

He wrote: "She tells what is right, and what is wrong and for a time that worked against the lies I was telling the world."
PIC: Daily Mail/Graham Chadwick
My own industry of journalism doesn’t come well out of the tale. Until I read this I’d imagined O’Reilly and David Walsh (the man who broke her claims relating to Armstrong) as having a close relationship. But she hadn’t known she was the only person to be named in his book, never really understood until it was too late that Armstrong was suing the Sunday Times but not O’Reilly.

It was an awful way to treat someone, someone going up against a man then seen as the most successful bike-rider since ...well, since ever. She makes a wry comment when telling how she met Armstrong for that extraordinary forgiveness meeting (pic above) about having one journalist accompany her and so write the story to keep the others away.

The Race to Truth, by Emma O'Reilly Buy it, borrow it from the library but read it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Diversity shines at the Asian Games but not for everyone
PIC Reuters via Al Jazeera
Playing sport as a woman can be challenging, and even impossible in some situations so it's disappointing that the International Basketball Federation has ruled against hijabs. The Asian Games are taking place at the moment, and while most federations allow hijabs or modified veils FIBA have said No. Their rules ban "headgear, hair accessories and jewellry"

And as a result the Qatari team are now out of the competition. A competition whose slogan is 'Diversity Shines Here'.

One of the players Ahlam Salem M Al-Mana told Reuters: "We have to take this stand. We knew about the hijab ban but we have to be here. We have to show everyone that we are ready to play, but the International Association is not ready."

If you're interested in knowing more about the challenges facing women in Muslim countries, and their successes Sertaç Sehlikoglu has a great blog Muslim Women in Sport.


Friday, September 19, 2014

What's coming up next

I've been very slack on posting here this month. This is mainly because I've been on leave, and trying to avoid computers as much as possible.

I did however read two gripping books which I'll be reviewing here next week. Both from the world of cycling as in the road racing sport. One is by Irish masseue Emma O' Reilly who used to work with Lance Armstrong - yes, the woman he said 'that' about.

And the second is Welsh cyclist Nicole Cook's autobiography, another very uncomfortable read for anyone with idealistic notions about sport. (Do people like that still exist - are you out there?)

A few more pages to go and thoughts to gather ...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: MuayThai Phuket

Boxing - not just for boys.

LtoR: Teresa Sinbimuaythai, Namwan Muay Thai, Geraldine Callaghan, Caley Reece, Gemma Sinbi, Natasha Sky and Victoria Fung Sinbimuaythai at Sinbi Muay Thai Training Camp - Phuket, Thailand.
PHOTO: Darren Reece, Riddler's Gym


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Flying Squirrel makes waves in Queensland

Meet The Flying Squirrel, and get your weekend off to an inspiring start. Don't let her being just six put you off getting in the water ...


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Inquest report on Lucy Stack's death

A few months ago I posted on the tragically early death of racehorse breeder Lucy Stack. Her moving letters to her family were reproduced in many papers and in that post, as were the tributes paid to her at the funeral.

An inquest into her death took place yesterday. It seems a lot of you are clicking on this blog looking for an inquest report, you can find that here on one of the Irish papers.

Ar dheis Dé a bheith a anam.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Afghan Cycles - Women's National Cycling Team of Afghanistan

This short film called "Afghan Cycles' tells the inspring story of a group of women in Kabul, Afghanistan who cycle and race their bikes in spite of so many challenges. 

Best quote? "Biking with fear and trembling doesn't work. When getting on a bike one must throw those feelings to the wind, and not hold that feeling in their hands."

Afghan Cycles Trailer from LET MEDIA on Vimeo.

UPDATE February 2015: 

The BBC caught up these women this week, naming them 'the world's most unlikely cycling team'. It's a disturbing look at the challenges they face in trying to compete in sport while living in a country which strongly discourages that very thing. 

In a country whose image is still dominated by the burka-clad women, the idea of lyrcra-clad  women pedalling along the streets is confrontational. Assistant cycling coach Miriam Marjan told the BBC: 

 "If it's not their father trying to stop them, it's a brother or uncle. There is always somebody they have to convince."
But still they cycle and get out there on their bikes.

And if you're looking for still more about these inspiring sports women, the producer of the film above Shannon Galpin wrote a powerful piece for

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Learning from champions

PIC via Get Up Stand Up Paddle mag

Interesting interview with Brazilian SUP'er Nicole Pacelli in this month's Red Bulletin.

Just 22 now, she won the first Women's Stand Up World Tour last year. Great insight into what makes a champion, especially when asked about the pressure of competing with that title hanging around her neck: 

"Imagine, every stop of the tour now, the announcer goes: “And now, the world champion, Nicole Pacelli!” so everybody wants to see whether this world-champion girl really is the real deal. At the first stop of this season in Hawaii, my photo was on the championship’s poster, so I said to myself, “OK, it’s time to bring it.” But then I go into the water and I feel calm. That’s one of my qualities, I feel calm, lay low and do what I have to do. I thought the pressure was going to be an issue this year, but so far it hasn’t affected me. If I started to overthink what I have to do in the water, thinking about how many seconds are left in a heat and such, I probably couldn’t do it anymore."

British sprinter Jodie Williams tells The Guardian she's never run a mile

PIC Photograph: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

This is the woman who won 151 races in a row during a five-year winning streak, and that was before she won Commonwealth Games bronze this year. 

We know sprinters focus on high intensity, short distances but it was a bit of a shock all the same to read this: "Oh dear, the furthest I've ever run is about a mile – no joke. I don't think I've ever run further than a mile, and even that probably took me about half an hour. I can't run long distances."


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: MUayThai fights

Irish fighter Kelly Creegan wins against Thai fighter Phaa Sang from Nakonpathom; Saturday in Thailand.

(Round 4 only in video)
PIC: Josh Lewis


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

Ireland 17 New Zealand 14. 

Very proud and delighted to post the Irish women's rugby team beat the Black Ferns yesterday at the World Cup. It's the Kiwi team's first WC loss since 1991. 

PIC via Breaking

PIC Getty Pictures

PIC via Independent News


Friday, August 1, 2014

Ireland starts the Women's Rugby World Cup

Determination ... PIC Irish Rugby

The Women's Rugby World Cup starts today in France, with my home team Ireland taking on America this afternoon.
I was excited to see some great stories in the newspapers this morning. This one by Gavin Cummiskey is my favourite, closes with some stirring sports-style lines. Writing about the two longest-serving players Fiona Coughlan and Lynn Cantwell he says:

"Here also begins the final campaign for the Thelma and Louise of Irish rugby (although Cantwell has postponed her retirement).

Already they have inspired a generation of female rugby players. Here represents the last stand for the first group to have achieved such hero status.

So begins a daunting task but they’ve never known it any other way.

Sevens can wait

Indeed it can. You can follow the matches here with full results updated daily.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What do you think about charity races?

Lindsey Gibbons, Grainne McManomon and Tara Dillon at Colour Dash 2014, Dublin
Sometimes a serious day out fundraising for charity can just be about having fun with your trainers on. These three women were among thousands running a brisk 5km in Dublin at the weekend for the Irish Cancer Society. Every kilometre saw them covered in coloured power-paint representing different cancers. 

The first runners home were mostly teenagers - something which warmed my cynical heart. You hear so much about kids and TV or X-box, it made for an inspiring start to the morning to see these kids sprinting for the finish. 

Sixteen year old Lauren Fowler came in joint third and wasn't even out of puff.  Hands on multi-coloured hips, she said: 'I'm here for the fun, it was a great race. Fun you know.' And only when asked, she added: 'My granddad had cancer before, he's recovered now though, he's doing good.' 

I've posted before about how many women seem to need the push of a charity fundraiser to get out and run. It's a curious phenonomen, somehow I'm sure linked to how women are pushed away from sport, made to feel it's not their space but it's OK if there is a nurturing element to it? Maybe I'm over-thinking?

Maybe it doesn't matter as long as you're running? Or walking, a few hundred people at the back walked the whole route, getting out there the best they could. You never know, this could be the first step of their healthy running journey; one family had been training with their kids using the Couch to 5km app, and are planning to run the whole thing next year.

It seemed as if more than half of the runners were female. I spotted quite a few young Dads on the sidelines with their kids while their wife or girlfriend ran the race. 

At least with this race the organisers pledged 100% of the entry fee goes to charity, everything including the paint was donated. And if that's what it takes to get people off the couch, that's what it takes? 

What about you? Do you need to fund-raise, does it make a difference to your training?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Judoka Lisa Kearney medals in Glasgow

Lisa Kearney in action Glasgow Commonwealth Games PIC Kearney's FB
Lisa Kearney, Ireland's first female Olympic judoka was in action this week again - taking home a bronze medal from the Commonwealth Games. 

Some great photos on her Facebook page and knocking around elsewhere that I thought I'd share. You have to love the determination in this one below, I wouldn't care to be lining up against her. 

Receiving her Bronze  PIC 
If you're a judo fan, you can follow Kearney here on Facebook -


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In defence of MMA and other nasty sports

For fight fans in Ireland, this week should have been the celebration of a UFC promotion but instead there's been an unedifying spat between fans and a radio station.

As a former fighter, it's hard for me to accept some people just don’t understand the ecstasy of winning an organised sporting fight. For them there’s no difference between smashing a beer bottle on someone’s head and winning a title belt. It’s all violence innit?

We do need to talk about risks in sport - concussion in rugby or NFL, ‘handbags’ in GAA** or uneven match-ups in combat sports.

However, on Monday when victorious MMA fighter Cathal Pendred went on national radio at TodayFM, he was clearly expecting a fun interview. He’d won the biggest fight of his career at UFC Fight Night Dublin, and in Ireland we love sporting success. Usually.

Pendred was struggling financially before the fight, a fight he almost lost. But he found what Thai trainers call ‘Jai Suu’ or fighting heart. He battled back. Job done. Bills paid. Great story. 

The interview started with Pendred explaining his relatively unknown sport. Then presenter Ray D'Arcy talked about 'unbridled violence' and there was this: 

“You're a bright guy. How do you feel about people paying money, rich people sponsoring the sport etc, to watch you and another man fight to the point of, not injury but you’ve got a black eye and your nose looks like you fell off a bike at speed.”

There’s the germ of a serious social discussion here - so many boxers are from difficult backgrounds and fighting is their escape. Is that right? I’ve seen too many Thai fighters change their lives in the ring to say it’s not. Are they often exploited because of their lack of education? Yes. Should we talk about this? Yes, definitely.

That wasn't the aim here. Pendred handled it very well, even cracking jokes when one listener recommended an MMA book to D'Arcy. There were no fireworks.

Unfortunately the online reaction hasn’t been restrained or respectful. Some keyboard warriors have played right into the manic stereotypes with derogatory (even defamatory) comments about the presenter.

I was saddened by the interview to be honest.

In Ireland rugby, GAA and soccer dominate sports pages and programmes. Golf has had a look in this week thanks to Rory McElroy, but in general it’s all about the conformity of the team.

This was a chance to celebrate an Irish victory on the national airwaves. And in a country facing rising rates of obesity and alcoholism, this was a chance to celebrate a sporting role model. A chance missed.

The only silver lining was how other media outlets jumped on the controversy (like I'm doing) and offered more air to fighters like Pendred and stablemate Conor McGregor. 

LISTEN to the interview here, it starts at about 36 mins in.

** for American readers - that's when two teams whale on each other instead of the ball! All in good fun apparently...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

American Kacy Catanzaro shows us what a female Ninja can do

There are many inspiring sports videos on this site, but you really need to watch this woman. Former gymnast Kacy Catanzaro doing her thing in TV show American Ninja Warrior will make your shoulders ache. Ok, very cheesy show-name but just wait till she gets onto the rings - incredible upper-body strength.

Enjoy! (and be warned you will want to get off-line right away!)

Kacy Catanzaro at the 2014 Dallas Finals... by e-mob

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: A History of Women's Boxing

Have you ever wondered about the women who came before you, the women who fought and pushed the boundaries of women’s fighting to make space for you? 

American Malissa Smith has, and she’s now answered many of our questions in a fascinating new book ‘A History of Women’s Boxing.’

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Iran

Newsha Tavakolian’s “To Be Twenty in Iran,” 2010. Polaris

(Not quite wordless:
New York Times article on May 30th says: "The artist Carlos Rolón, better known as Dzine, has long been a boxing fan, if not a practitioner. “My father took me for boxing lessons when I was 13,” he says. “I was more scared then excited. I developed a hernia.” The injury didn’t dampen his passion, which has led him to produce “Boxed: A Visual History and the Art of Boxing,” an image-driven compendium of the sport, from the Grecian Olympiads to bare-knuckle fighting to today’s megabucks stadium battles." Link is Here)


Friday, June 13, 2014

Lead the Change Be the Change - IWG on Women and Sport

Anyone interested in the politics of women in sport should check out the live feed from the International Working Group on Women and Sport conference. 

The three-day conference started yesterday, and you can find the links here Watch Conference Live

Some great topics on the agenda including Sport without Fear, and Changing Sports Policies. I'll post later on some of the topics, unfortunately can't watch live due to that thing called work but should be able work get some information for you.

There's also a great session on Friday afternoon looking at what's been achieved in the last 20 years - something we should do more often. Thankfully we have left the days when women were considered too weak to compete behind in most countries.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Yorker nails sports sexism

A quite brilliant cartoon from The New Yorker - thank you Twitter for sharing. More New Yorker cartoons here.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ferial Ameeroedien packs her bags for Thailand and Enfusion MuayThai

South African fighter Ferial 'Felix' Ameerodien now fights out of an Irish gym, and is set to represent both of her homes at the Enfusion event in Thailand.

She spoke recently with the Irish Daily Mail about fighting and protein. More protein than fighting it seems. A long read but worth it for a great insight into the work behind the glamour. Felix is one of just 18 fighters invited to the 54-kgs only reality TV-format event. More on that here.

If you click on the 'full screen' logo in the bottom corner,  the pages opens up in an easier-to-read size. You can follow journalist Jenny Friel on Twitter for more of her work - @jenny_friel


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why are council swimming pools losing so much money?

Millions of euro are being spent by councils to prop up swimming pools around Ireland, with very few public pools showing a profit judging by figures put together by the Irish Examiner. 

This was a disturbing story to read. Yes, it's shocking councils invested so much to get so little back, and that tax-payers are now faced with huge bills. One council in Leitrim will pay  €6.1m in 2018 to buy back the pool from investors under the terms of the development plan according to journalist Conor Ryan.

But in the context of sport and this blog, the really shocking information is that people just don't swim. These pools were presumably built on business plans which predicted a certain level of usage. (Maybe I am presuming too much) And they are not getting that - Wicklow council for example is owned €20m by the people behind two new pools there.

Paralympian Ellen Keane in action PIC Dublin People

These figures go against the received wisdom which says swimming is one of the (few) popular sports here. When I say popular I mean popular to do - Irish people love watching sports, it's the sweat and action part we don't do so well. 

Just last year the ESRI (our State figures organisation) said: "Almost 7% of adults aged 16 and over swim each week, amounting to roughly 230,000 regular swimmers ...  the appeal of swimming to both genders and to people of all ages means that swimming is more popular overall than soccer, golf or Gaelic games."

They're certainly not swimming in the rivers and lakes, as last summer tragically showed us when an unusually hot summer resulted in multiple outdoor drownings. 

So are there too many pools for those 230,000 people? Or did they perhaps exaggerate their swimming prowess just a little ...

Another possibility is people are still going to the more expensive (and more luxurious) fitness centres instead of the public pools. This would go against the Recession Ireland narrative but if people are swimming, they must be doing it somewhere. 

These fitness centres can charge anything from €70 monthly for swimming and leisure classes. Although many of the cheaper public pools offer just as many classes so I'm not sure why you would pay more unless there is a stigma around going to the council pool. 

Lots of questions and very few answers in this post I'm afraid  - what do you think is going on?

(Disclaimer - I do use my local council pool, mainly because you can pay per swim. I prefer outdoors except when it's Baltic-like in the winter so I'm not there too often.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fast women - Jade Edwards steps up to the Aston Martin Challenge

Jade Edwards - PIC Facebook JadeEdwardsRacing

Car-racing has always been seen as a man’s game but you see a few women popping up here and there. British driver Jade Edwards is now lining up to trace in the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge.

This sport is not one of my fortes but from reading around the info sent over by her sponsor ‘Quote Me Today’ Edwards is a pretty formidable competitor.

She’s raced successfully in the Mazda MX-5 Championship – an interesting series of high-octane races in ‘low-performance’ cars. When you have racing bibles saying she ‘impressed’ you can read shockingly left male drivers in the dust.

And even bigger things are in store for the 24-year old now that she’s successfully test driven a GT4 Aston Martin at Portimao in Portugal.

At the time Edwards said: “I wasn’t too nervous in the run up to the drive, as I drove a GT4 spec car at Silverstone late last year, so I knew roughly what to expect. The car was awesome: good handling, excellent grip and a great amount of power! I felt at home in it straight away.”

So next on her list is this: “The Aston Martin GT4 Challenge is a head-to-head race in Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4s with 445 bhp engines, paddle-shift transmissions and the aero kit. The Aston Martin Vantage GT4 is the most popular GT4 car in the world with nearly 100 cars having been made and competing in race series across the globe.”

Her family bio will be familiar to anyone familiar with women competing in traditionally male sports. You can probably guess that her father used to race, and add in her grandfather as well.

Edwards started racing at just 15, and once again as with Ireland’s Katie Taylor in boxing, her main support came from her father before the officials saw what was in front of them. But unusually her older sister Chloe also races – some great photos on their website here.

I’ll keep an eye out on the races and let you know how they’re getting on