Comment: Can Ladies Football make bank from its biggest rivalry?

The LGFA has a chance to build something special on the back of Sunday's All-Ireland final

Emmet Ryan

Technology Correspondent @emmetjryan
23rd September, 2016
Ciara O'Sullivan of Cork and Noelle Healy of Dublin with the Brendan Martin Cup Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

In the red corner stand the reigning, defending, 10 time out of the last 11 All-Ireland champions. The most consistently dominant force in Irish sport since the turn of the century. In the blue corner, the 1 in that 11, a side that has come within touching distance twice before of taking over the mantle of the real team to beat and is now desperate to do so third time out.

Right now, Cork and Dublin is a rivalry in the sense of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova (pre-suspension). The match-up gets the hype but the winner doesn't change. Dublin, to their credit, have looked a whole lot closer to their arch-nemesis than Sharapova but the W is what they and the sport needs now.

Cork's dominance has worked wonders for the sport in spite of the usual problem that comes with teams being expected to win everything. The game has developed crossover talents on the back of their run. Whereas Cora Staunton was the only name you could reliably assume the casual observer knew before the emergence of this side, the recently retired Valerie Mulcahy along with current standouts Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley usually click in the heads of most observers. All it took the trio was a comical amount of medals to achieve mainstream recognition but whatever works.

Now the challenge for the sport is how to build from that again. For all of the increased profile, the LGFA is still far too reliant on its big day out when All-Ireland final weekend should really drive the coverage for the rest of the year.

The horribly miscalculated Ladyball campaign by new sponsors Lidl wasn't the type of attention required although a subsequent change in tone towards something more like AIB's The Toughest campaign tempered the damage somewhat.

Getting bodies to turn up for more than one game has to be the fundamental goal. Player numbers at all grades and capabilities are not an issue for the LGFA, they are stout in numbers across the board. Turning that into something marketable is.

For sports outside of the biggest of big ticket events, activating your base is fundamental and the LGFA has a huge one to work off. Getting a lot of bodies in Croker for one day should be a tool in the overall plan, not the end goal.

Through luck, the LGFA has been given the optimal rivalry on a plate as its means of selling the sport across a longer stretch of the season. The classic rivalry between two big counties with large populations where one is the boss and the other wants to be the boss. It's an easy sell, Dublin wants what Cork has and no matter what the result is on Sunday there's a natural follow on. Either Cork win and the chase begins again or, and this is more beneficial in the year ahead, Dublin win and Cork go on another hunt to reclaim what they see as theirs.

A duopoly isn't exactly perfect but it's the story you build around when you try to sell the sport, to convert people, and to activate your base to spread that word. One of these teams is going to spend the next 12 months chasing the other and the natural additional question is can someone put a spanner in the works? That's how you make it interesting, that's how you make more games matter.

Sometimes the best strategy is the easiest. Let Cork and Dublin go at it, then spend a year making people wonder if they are going to do it all again.

Related Stories

Private rental sector remains strong despite Covid-19

How the programme for government will shape housing

Insight Niall Byrne 2 months ago

Comment: US must defuse Covid-19’s ticking time bomb of debt

Insight Todd G Buchholz 3 months ago

Comment: The recovery will be more U than V-shaped

Insight Larry Hatheway 3 months ago