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Armagh event set to inspire girls into sport

By Declan Bogue

An attempt to harness the 'Slaughtneil effect' will be in full swing this weekend at the Empowering Female Sport Conference 2017, hosted as a joint venture between Ulster Camogie, Ulster Ladies Gaelic Football Association and Ulster Handball.

Taking place in the Armagh City Hotel, the conference organisers have invited the Slaughtneil and Eglish camogie teams that took part in last weekend's All-Ireland finals as guests of honour, while Slaughtneil captain Aoife Cassidy is set to be one of the main speakers.

Other keynote speakers include Ann Downey, the 12-time All-Ireland camogie winner with Kilkenny, and Cork's eight-time All-Ireland champion Juliet Murphy.

Explaining the significance of the event, Julie O'Neill of Ulster camogie stated: "It's to try and give females the inspiration to take up sports without any barriers.

"It's to increase participation, that is the key behind it and to use those key people in each of those sports to make sure that they push it out there and drive females coming along on the day, to give them the belief in themselves to follow through."

The achievements of the two Ulster camogie sides in recent months have gone a long way to demonstrating the value of being involved in competitive sport beyond your teens, explains O'Neill.

"What they have achieved and where they got to at the weekend, to have two Ulster teams in Croke Park at the weekend was just fabulous. That can drive young girls on," she said.

"Those two rural communities are so small, they have very little competition there. It shows that it is possible, that you don't have to be from a big city and a big club in all codes. They are not getting things handed to them left, right and centre. They have had to work very, very hard to get to where they got to.

"You hope that young girls can see that example and believe that they can do it, no matter how small your club is."

The drop-out rate for 17-year-old girls in sport remains around 70%, with geography a major factor in the variety of sports that they can pursue.

O'Neill believes a factor in that is the lack of opportunities for those not involved at an elite level, but believes that mindset can be changed.

She added: "It's just making sure there are plenty of avenues, that they can take part in playing and when their playing stops that they can go into other areas. For example, coaching, administration even. It's not the end of the road. There are loads of ways you can continue to be involved in sport."

Tickets can be bought online at ulstergaa.ie

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