THIS year was an incredible one for women’s sports.
There were a number of watershed moments that announced to the world that yes, there is a massive market that has yet to be tapped into.
So, not in any specific order, here’s my top 10 watershed moments in women’s sport, from at home and abroad, this year.
1. Stephanie Roche and THAT goal!
This is the talking point at the minute.
The former Peamount star was initially short-listed in the top 10 for FIFA’s Puskas Goal of the Year Award, but she since made the top three alongside Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez, with the winner being announced on January 12.
This isn’t a watershed moment as such for women in sport. Roche’s goal is completely deserving of its place in the top three, be it scored by a female or not, but the fact that she is the first woman ever to make the top three shortlist is poigniant in itself.
2. TG4 get in the groove
The decision by TG4 to broadcast not only Katie Taylor’s fifth AIBA World Championship title bid live from South Korea, but the semi-finals and finals of all of Team Ireland’s four female boxers – Taylor, Joanne Lambe, Claire Grace and Michaela Walsh – was an inspired move.
The Irish broadcaster has been the best in terms of broadcasting women’s sports in the country given their sponsorship of the ladies football championships, however their airing of Taylor’s fight and that of the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France in August has taken their standing to a whole new level.
Without a doubt TG4 are ahead of the game when it comes to broadcasting women’s sports in Ireland.
Don’t forget either that Sky Sports too launched its own weekly ‘Sportswomen’ show, while BT Sport continue to air games from the English Women’s Premier League.
3. England V Germany at Wembley
In November, 55,000 fans turned up at Wembley to watch the English women’s soccer team take on European champions Germany in a friendly.
That’s 15,000 more than watched the men’s team three days earlier, but the incredible thing is that the crowd had to be capped at 55,000 given that tube repairs were taking place.
4. CBS launch first women’s sports show
CBS in the US launched a weekly hour-long, prime-time women’s sports show on cable, which was the first of its kind.
The show entitled ‘We Need to Talk’ features a core of CBS Sports announcers, while former WNBA stars Lisa Leslie and Swin Cash are also among the contributors.
The show is by Emmy Award-winning coordinating producers Emilie Deutsch and Suzanne Smith, who is the only woman currently producing or directing NFL games.
5. Professional french soccer side appoints first senior female coach
Corinne Diacre became the first woman to coach a men’s professional football team in a competitive match in France when her Clermont Foot 63 side lost 2-1 at Brest in the second division.
The former French international celebrated her 40th birthday on the same day and was kindly given a bouquet of flowers and a kiss on the cheek before kick-off by her counterpart, Alex Dupont.
Diacre was appointed as Clermont coach at the end of June, replacing another woman – Helena Costa – who quit before coaching a game after claiming male colleagues sidelined her and used her as a “face” to attract publicity.
Costa was the first female manager to be appointed in the highest two divisions of any professional European football league.
The Italian third division side Viterbese hired Carolina Morace in 1999 but she resigned after two matches.
6. IRFU contract sevens players, the Kiwis, and the Aviva
In October, the IRFU announced that 19 players had signed up to the Ireland Women’s Sevens High Performance Programme.
The contracted players are now based in DCU as they prepare for the qualifying road to the 2016 Olympics.
11 of the players came through previous IRFU Talent ID (TID) programmes, with a number of girls coming from different sporting backgrounds including football, athletics and hockey.
Already the move is paying dividends with the side winning the Dubai 7s Invitational title at the start of December.
They will now take part in a training camp in San Diego with the USA 7s squad in January.
Of course there was the historic win over the All Blacks at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, and prior to that there was the excellent move by the IRFU to host Ireland’s Six Nations game against Italy at the Aviva Stadium.
7. England cricket gives female players professional contracts
Women’s cricket seems to be leading the way recently on the platform of professionalism.
Earlier this year England’s women cricket team received a boost with news that 18 players were to be given central contracts with the ECB.
But there wasn’t just good news across the Irish Sea. In Australia, world club champions the Southern Stars were set to cash in on plans to revolutionise the women’s game, with players to have their incomes doubled in some cases by featuring in a new Twenty20 tournament to be held in Singapore.
The inaugural Women’s International Cricket League planned to pay top players up to $40,000 (26,857) each for a six-team competition, to be played over 10 to 12 days.
Australia’s women received a landmark pay rise last year but the 14 centrally contracted players still earn only $25,000 to $52,000 (34,914) plus match payments, while those with state deals are on $2,500 to $7,000 a year not including match fees.
8. Tour de France
The ‘La Course’ – a two-hour women’s event held during the Tour de France – was broadcast in 147 countries, with 12 channels across 104 of those countries showing it live.
The race itself featured 120 cyclists covering 13 laps of the Tour’s finish circuit up and down the Champs Elysées, turning at Place de la Concorde and at the Arc de Triomphe, with a total distance of 90 kilometres.
There was prize fund of €22,500 for the winner which was equal to that on offer for the men’s stage.
9. Conti referees college football game
The Big 12 college football conference in the United States assigned a female official to work one of its games for the first time in league history.
Catherine Conti was part of the officiating team for Kansas’ season opener on September 6 against Southeast Missouri State in the NCAA’s top college division in american football.
10. AFL’s Kilda hire female scouting coach
The Australian Football League (AFL) made history this year when St Kilda recruited Peta Searle as their development coach.
It’s the highest a female has climbed in AFL coaching ranks and comes after Searle, the trailblazer who was the first woman appointed to a VFL assistant coaching job, walked away from the post at second-tier level this season feeling disillusioned by the lack of opportunities to progress.
Searle was given an 18-month contract.
Since leaving her position in the VFL, Searle had reluctantly returned to teaching. Before then, the single mother-of-two had been living on a pension and her $5,000 wage from football coaching, but after seven years felt it was unsustainable to keep following her AFL football dream.
Don’t forget too that former WNBA star Becky Hammon was the first female appointed to coaching staff of an NBA team, with the San Antonio Spurs.