Republic of Ireland Glory: A prime example of what is possible when you invest in women's sport

Republic of Ireland Glory: A prime example of what is possible when you invest in women's sport
Neasa Kennedy
Neasa Kennedy

Two days on from their victory in Hampden Park, it is beginning to sink in what the Republic of Ireland team have achieved.

Denise O Sullivan's inch-perfect pass to substitute Amber Barrett, who slotted the ball perfectly into the bottom corner on her first touch was ultimately the difference between Ireland and Scotland. The moment was incredibly poignant with Barrett racing to the corner flag and the Donegal star kissing her black armband, a moving moment of recognition for those lost in the devastating Creeslough tragedy.

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw spoke of how the dedication and belief that this squad has is what has now gotten them to a World Cup.

"After the battle in Ukraine where we lost qualification for the playoffs for the European Championships, we said there in the dressing room 'We are going to the World Cup, this will not happen to us again' and that determination has brought us to where we are."

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But it is more than dedication that got them here. It is undeniable that the fight for equality driven by the international women's team five years ago was the catalyst.

The endless effort from a committed group of players in 2017 was certainly a watershed moment. In April 2017 players took a courageous stand against the FAI at a press conference in Liberty Hall. The team threatened to strike over issues relating mainly to standards and renumeration.

One of the most shocking revelations was that players were made to change out of their team kits in airport toilets following away trips as their gear was also used by underage teams, which former Ireland captain Emma Byrne described as 'humiliating'.

At that press conference in 2017 was Áine O'Gorman, who now has qualified for a World Cup. She credited those players in 2017 who took a stand alongside her.

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"Girls like Niamh Fahey, Diane [Caldwell], Louise [Quinn] and also Emma Byrne and Olivia O'Toole, they were all there supporting us last night and they have been a really big part of women's football in Ireland"

On what qualifying for a world cup means to her, O'Gorman said "It sounds mad to say but we keep turning around to each other like 'We're going to the World Cup, Oh My God!' but obviously last night was a really special moment. I always believed we could do it but still can't quite believe we're going to a World Cup"

In August of 2021, the FAI announced that both women's and men's international teams had agreed to a deal with the FAI to receive equal pay. This was a huge step forward for the women's national team, and a testament to the hard fight for equality made by those players.

Chloe Mustaki reiterated how pivotal gaining equal status to the men within the FAI was.

"It changed everything"

"Having access to facilities and resources, having everything you need to train everyday, staying in good hotels and eating good food, it makes a massive difference"

On what it has meant for young girls growing up and wanting to play football, Mustaki remarked that what her squad have achieved will mean "so much".

"We've seen the development of the women's game here in Ireland for the senior team post that 2017 talk"

"We've seen what resources can bring to a team and you can just see that it doesn't just take quality on the field, it takes everything off the field as well to get a team ready for such a big competitive game"

"The only way is up now and our dreams have come true and hopefully that will be just the norm for Irish girls growing up playing football here and they can really feel that qualifying for a major tournament every couple of years is very realistic"

The only way is up and it is evident that women's football is on a positive trajectory, especially following on from the success of the Euros this summer. The last women's World Cup was the summer of 2019, and exposure and excitement surrounding the game was palpable, even without an Irish team involved. If that is anything to go by, then next summers World Cup campaign should be phenomenal with unprecedented exposure and excitement throughout Ireland and beyond. The countdown to July 2023 and Australia begins!

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