By the time this column goes live, Stephanie Roche’s goal (this one), will have been watched more times than there are people in Dublin. Let that sink in for a minute. That video, at the time of writing, has been watched 1.4 million times.
Imagine if one tenth of that figure went to football matches in Ireland every week (let alone WNL matches). We live in a culture that values the moment - it’s just far easier to watch that one outstanding goal rather than going to a live match.
For that reason, trying to encourage people to go to matches off the back of watching Roche’s goal is probably worthless. The experience of the Airtricity League has shown that even when there are hundreds of goals and moments of real skill available on YouTube, there is a minimal, if any, impact on attendances.
What that goal does do is highlight the quality in women’s football. In Ireland, women’s football supporters have to fight a constant battle with fans of football in general - even with people who go to men’s matches. As Gareth Maher writes this week in his column in the Irish Daily Mail, “what’s the standard like” is the question you’re most likely to be asked by people when you tell them you were at a WNL match.
This battle won’t be won by showing them Steph Roche’s goal. But more goals like that one (Sinead O’Farrelly’s for Raheny United last weekend would be a prime candidate) could eventually go some way to showing people that the league is worth watching. It mightn’t convince a milion people to go to a match, but even ten extra people going would be a boost - those ten could tell their friends, and so on.
Given that the goal has been shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook and has also featured on Sky Sports News, it has planted a seed for the WNL. It’s up to the clubs and media to make sure that the league gets the oxygen of publicity. And, of course, the players need the keep up the standard of great goals and attacking football that makes the league worth watching.
Player of the Week: Stephanie Roche
It couldn’t really be anyone else, could it? But apart from her shooting to superstardom, Roche scored twice in Peamount’s 5-2 win over Galway. She played with the kind of verve and playmaking ability that mark her out as one of the league’s very best players. Peas look like they are gelling again after being hit hard by losing to rivals Raheny last month. In a week where there could have been five or six players of the week, honourable mentions go to Edel Kennedy - who scored four in Wexford’s 5-0 win over Cork - DLR’s Orlagh Nolan and the Raheny duo of Rebecca Creagh and Katie McCabe.