IRELAND’S in the World Cup! The country will be rockin’ to chants and songs come next July! 

It was some achievement when one considers the adversity this team has defeated. It was only last year that women’s team secured equal pay to the men’s team. They are now paid £2000 per game. The men reduced their pay from £2,500 so that the women could secure parity of pay. The fees were also part of the Irish Government intervention which saved the FAI from examinership after years of dire financial mismanagement in the men’s game. It was only in 2017 that the team held a press conference where they made public the treatment which they described as being treated like “fifth class citizens” and exposed how they were forced to share tracksuits with underage teams and change into their kits in airport toilets.

The route to equality of treatment has truly run alongside the team’s route to the World Cup. These women have had to not only battle teams in their group to reach the highest echelons of the game, but also the systemic barriers of misogynistic bias. That is a story that should be inspirational and these women should make our hearts burst with national pride.

These women are trail-blazers for equality and rights. They are role models for all of the young girls and women who have been told to go without team buses, let alone go to the back of them; play without changing rooms; play on substandard pitches while the boys and men have the county grounds; have finals moved for the men’s game if there is a replay. If you follow any women’s sport you will be able to add insult and injury and compromise one after another to this list. 

It is therefore not even ironic that this team’s achievement has been entirely overshadowed by the video of their singing in their dressing room after the match. The women who played and won for their country have been treated disgracefully since that night. Instead of being congratulated and feted from one end of the country to the other they have been used as a vehicle to promote anti-republican narratives in various forms. 

At least the diatribe targeting these young women this week has met a large degree of popular resistance and they have been supported in the keyboard battles that ensued. When they called their press conference in 2017 to highlight the systemic bias they received far less support.

Of course, the red-faced hyperbole of many who engaged in pontificating about their sing-song was not about the Irish football team or these women. These players were in that moment mere carriers for the anti-Irish, anti-republican rhetoric which ultimately seeks to win a battle of conflict narratives, following a conflict which no-one won. 

Of course, these women, used to fifth class treatment, will be well used to overcoming adversity and by the time they are in Oz they will have left all of the poor treatment behind, like a horrible bad dream. Let us now move on to singing for our new heroes, like Amber Barrett, who scored the winning goal against Scotland and immediately spoke so movingly about Creeslough and those she knew. A touch of class from which others could learn much.

Oooh, ah, up the Mná!