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Hunky Dorys ad crop top babes spark fury ahead of Down game

By Cliona Foley and Grainne Cunningham

The GAA's finest female players can beat the socks off scantily clad models as role models for young girls, the organisation said yesterday.

Camogie president Joan O'Flynn lashed out at what she called the "gratuitous" representation of women, dressed as GAA players, in an advertising campaign for Hunky Dorys crisps.

Ms O'Flynn said the multi-media campaign, which features women wearing revealing crop tops in sport poses, was particularly ill-timed given that camogie's top teams Down and Waterford will be starring in Croke Park this Sunday.

"This is the week when our very best players -- top-class female athletes who demonstrate the very best skills of their gender in sport and are ideal role models for young girls -- will be lining out in our All-Ireland finals.

"To see such gratuitous and exploitative images of women being linked with sport, and also taking up valuable space in the media in the week of our All-Ireland finals, is particularly distasteful and disappointing," she added.

The Wexford senior camogie team will be looking for a two in a row against Galway as part of a treble-header of Gala All-Ireland camogie finals in Croke Park this weekend.

This is not the first time Hunky Dorys has been criticised for its provocative advertising campaigns -- last year, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) ruled that similar ads for Hunky Dorys, but with a rugby theme, had caused grave and widespread offence and should remain permanently withdrawn from all media, including the advertiser's website.

The ads, which featured women in revealing tops playing rugby under straplines such as "Are you staring at my crisps?" and "Tackle these", provoked a record 300 complaints.

And yesterday, ASAI chief executive Frank Goodman said his organisation had already received 30 complaints in relation to the new campaign.

But last night, Ray Coyle, CEO of Largo Foods, which owns Hunky Dorys, defended the ad campaign, saying that as a medium-sized Irish company "we have to attract attention one way or other".

He said that Largo Foods did not have pockets as deep as Unilever, which is currently running the "racy" Lynx advertising campaign.

Mr Coyle said last year's campaign was a huge success, despite the complaints, and resulted in 300,000 hits on the Largo website.

He said it boosted sales in Ireland by 14pc initially and by 8pc in the long term and increased sales in Northern Ireland, where Hunky Dorys had a smaller foothold, by 25pc.

He said the current campaign, which is mainly print-based but does include a number of outdoor poster sites, had cost in the region of ?600,000.

The Ashbourne, Co Meath, company's latest campaign has a tag-line that states 'Proud supporters of Gaelic Football', even though it does not have any formal sponsorship with Croke Park, which means that the GAA may step in now to try to stop the brand piggy-backing on its image.

However, the company does sponsor GAA teams within the Royal County.

It sponsors reigning county senior football champions Skyrne and another local gaelic football side, Curraha, as well as Navan rugby club.

But Mr Coyle proffered a splinter of hope for female athletes when he promised the campaign was the last of its kind.

Ms O'Flynn said she was particularly disappointed to see such a campaign trying to cash-in on gaelic games, particularly when it came out just before camogie's "real female sports stars performing on their biggest day of their year".

"Thankfully there are increasing numbers of commercial companies getting involved to sponsor and support women's sport and we are fortunate to have one ourselves in RTE," she added, ahead of the televised finals.

They are expected to attract 20,000 supporters to Croke Park on the sport's 80th anniversary.

Next Sunday's finalists include inspirational Antrim defender Rhona Torney, who defied a heart condition and medical advice last year to win a junior All-Ireland and returns this season in the intermediate final against Wexford.

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