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ALL-IRELAND FINAL TG4 host Máire Ní Bhraonáin says she hopes all football fans get behind the women today

'It would be great to see the clubs who supported the men's team to equally push on for the women'

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Máire Ní Bhraonáin with the Brendan Martin Cup.

Máire Ní Bhraonáin with the Brendan Martin Cup.

Máire Ní Bhraonáin with the Brendan Martin Cup.

Peil Na mBan presenter Máire Ní Bhraonáin isn't sitting on the fence when it comes to calling the result of today's All-Ireland clash between Dublin and Meath at Croke Park.

The boys in blue may have failed in their bid for an astonishing seven in a row after falling to Mayo, but their female peers are poised to make up for the disappointment today, predicts the TG4 star.

"It's difficult to see them being beaten," says Máire of the team's chances of lifting the Brendan Martin Cup for the fifth consecutive year. "They're just a superb outfit.

"Like, 3-14 is the average scoring of Dublin in their games; the quality of the performances they've put in, the team ethic, they're just phenomenal. So while I've loved watching Meath, and I think they've performed immensely, I would say Dublin.

"It would be great to see the clubs who supported the men's team to equally push on for the women."

It's the kind of straight-up answer that you mightn't get from a presenter on a certain other balance-obsessed broadcaster - and that's precisely why the 32 year-old says she relishes working for the Irish language station, which has been broadcasting women's Gaelic football for more than two decades now.

"I enjoy being able to say what I think," jokes Máire, who began fronting Peil Na mBan last year after 10 years as a pundit with the Connemara-based channel.

"It's not a case of wanting to be wrong or wanting to be right. You kind of go with your gut and we're given that freedom on TG4 to say what we see in front of us, that you don't have to be hiding back or saying, 'Oh, we're not allowed to give an opinion'.

"You're not forcing it down someone's throat. People like to hear a definite judgement and then they can make what they want of that. I think we all like the bit of drama - it's good to throw it in!"

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Meath players celebrate their win over Cork in the All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship semi-final last month.

Meath players celebrate their win over Cork in the All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship semi-final last month.

Meath players celebrate their win over Cork in the All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship semi-final last month.

 

Galway native Máire knows exactly how the Meath and Dublin players must be feeling as she laces up in pursuit of county league glory with her local team Milltown next weekend.

Already ahead of curve with the Irish language 'peil na mban' (women's football), meanwhile, the secondary school teacher welcomed the ongoing debate over whether the antiquated English term 'ladies' football' should be kicked to touch.

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"For me, I've nearly always called it football," she shrugs. "When I started playing, I would have always played with my five brothers here at home.

"When we started training with Milltown, we played with the lads' team. Even after the ladies' club was founded, we would have used the same training facilities as the lads - the same pitches, the same stands, the same scoreboards - so I'd have never really differentiated that it's women's or ladies' football."

"It's an interesting debate that's happening around it - I think there's always developments and changes that are coming across."

One of the best possible changes, says the presenter, is the growing number of fans cheering on the sportswomen from the stands at stadiums across the country, bolstered by campaigns such as '20x20' aimed at boosting the involvement and visibility of women and girls in sport.

As the last-minute scramble for one of today's 24,000 golden tickets continues, she's hoping to see the awestruck faces of even more young girls decked out in green and gold or navy and sky blue as the camera pans around Croke Park.

"It's the whole thing of, 'If you can see it, you can be it'," reckons Máire, who teaches Irish and media studies at Gonzaga College in Dublin. "If you can bring a team along, an underage team especially, and show them, 'This could be your chance as well', it creates a hunger for it.

"Girls who are eight or nine go, 'Well, I'm going to play with my team on Saturday, but I'll keep going with that because maybe I can come back here myself some day'. It starts to become more of a reality than a far-off dream."

But players like Sinead Goldrick and Shauna Ennis weren't the only ones that had to get match fit for the final, jokes Máire: "It really is like the Oscars - all the stops are pulled out to give viewers that special feeling of being in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day.

"It takes hours of work in the weeks leading up to it to be fully prepared. Obviously the only thing we can't prepare for is the result. I'm buzzing to get started!"

  • Live coverage of Dublin v Meath airs on Peil Na mBan Beo from 3.45pm today

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