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Our People – Interview with Leinster PRO Aisling Clery   09/03/2018

Our People is a project to promote the hard-working volunteers, officials and players in Leinster LGFA. Aisling Clery was recently presented with PRO of the Year at the Volunteer Awards Night in Croke Park. Secondary school teacher by day, Aisling is the PRO for Leinster LGFA and is looking forward to this new 'Our People' project! Aoife Kealy of Árdscoil na Tríonóide sat with Aisling to find out more about what she thought about women in sport in 2017 and beyond!

What is your position in Ladies Gaelic Football and what does it involve?

I am currently the Public Relations Officer for Leinster Ladies Gaelic Football. This is the second year I have held this position. I was involved with Meath LGFA for many years where I held many different positions including PRO, Chairperson and Secretary. Now, I work in Leinster helping to promote the LGFA, running Leinster social media pages, liaising with the media and taking photographs to help promote the sport.

Who are your favourite female athletes? Why?

It is hard to pin down just one or two but I have huge respect for the Williams sisters in tennis. Their stamina and ability to succeed is unrelenting. What Katie Taylor has done for womens’ sports has been phenomenal. Lindsay Peat is also an inspiration. To be highly skilled and successful in one sport is an achievement, but to be successful and play at the highest levels in basketball, gaelic football and rugby will surely not be paralleled.

Do you have any memorable moments about Irish women in sport?

Meeting Dublin’s Noelle Healy at last year’s All Stars in Citywest was pretty special. She had just won the Senior Players’ Player of the Year Award and was so nice to stop and have a chat! Being in Croke Park last September just before the start of the Senior Final was something else. I’ve been at every Ladies All Ireland Final for maybe 17 years, and the noise was just incredible. Seeing the 46,286 figure go up on the big screen was very special. It was like the Irish public giving the LGFA a high five and a gold star in their copybooks!

How do you think we can promote women in sport more than it already is?

In order for us to promote women in sport, attendances have to increase. People have to get out there and support from the early days of a competition. Seeing the huge crowd in Croke Park last September was terrific but seeing stands full in the other rounds before the Final is just as important, if not more so. Getting bums on seats will automatically attract the interest the media has in our sport. Lidl’s partnership with and sponsorship of the LGFA has been an incredible asset and more people are aware of the Association than ever before. The work done by volunteers across the country in making people aware of the sport cannot be underestimated and is critically important if the sport is going to continue to grow.

Do you think Ireland has good sports female role models for the younger generation playing sports?

I think today’s Irish children are incredibly lucky. While of course there have always been female role models, never have the younger generation had such easy access to role models. There are so many LGFA players who are also coaches to underage teams within their clubs. At a local level they are terrific role models. Nationally, there are so many players who are working to promote participation in sports. The work of Peil Óg Átha Cliath is a clear example of players who are encouraging the next generation to get involved in sport.

Does the recent appointment of Joanne Cantwell to present The Sunday Game Live in 2019 give women the encouragement to pursue a career in sports media and journalism?

I remember hearing this and deciding to check Twitter to see what people were saying about the appointment, lots saying it was about time which was great to see. The Sunday Game being seen solely as a GAA programme is slowly changing and this appointment is a further example of that. It really can only be a good thing for women in sport! The most wonderful thing about being involved in sport is that there is room for everyone – if your playing days weren’t successful (like mine!) there are other avenues you can pursue – sports media and journalism is definitely one of them. The number of female sports journalists is slowly increasing and this will definitely help women in sport.

Do you think women’s sport deserves to be televised more often?

I won’t say no to this question! Of course, there should be more women’s sport on television but like anything else, if there is an interest in it, the media and TV/radio are sure to do their best to show it. I genuinely don’t think the LGFA would be where it was today without TG4. Their constant commitment to televising national games has developed into them also streaming games they hadn’t previously covered. In 2017, for the first time the Leinster Senior Final between Dublin and Westmeath was streamed live. In 2018 already we have had games on Eir. It is wonderful to see the hard work and commitment of the players and their management teams getting this recognition and promotion. Having the games as double headers with the GAA will also surely help the televising of more fixtures.

Is there anything you would like to see happen to women’s sport in the next couple of years to help it to achieve its full potential?

It is a very exciting time to be involved with the LGFA. The numbers playing the game are forever increasing which is testament to the volunteers within the Association. However, these increased numbers also bring challenges. More players will mean more games which will mean more pitches and more referees. It is imperative that the Gaelic Games family are working very closely together so that people can be involved in these sports without risking burn out! Not losing sight of the grassroots of the Association will be important going forward. This is where it all starts for the role models we have today, so it must be nurtured and well looked after for tomorrow’s Stars. Having more of everything also requires greater manpower on the ground to ensure these competitions are run properly and all this takes time. It might be time for the LGFA to look at County Administrators in every county to ease the day-to-day workload of the County Executive. I was delighted to be a recipient of the PRO of the Year Award at the inaugural Volunteer Awards Night recently in Croke Park. It was a genuinely incredible feeling to think people notice and value your contribution to the Association. As a volunteer official, it can be stressful and busy, the Awards are recognition for this time and commitment in a similar way to that of players. Oh and lastly, how great would selling out Croke Park be on All Ireland Final day? 82,300 people making a racket for women in sport. Judging by current progress, it’ll happen yet!

Many thanks to Aoife Kealy for all her hard work!