Ahead of International Women’s Day; we hear how one Waterford soccer club shattered a taboo and created a level playing field with its female focus

“The menstrual cycle is a much more significant barrier to sport than we were cognitive of”

When Park Rangers AFC won a National Lottery Good Causes award for their Female Focus Campaign in 2022,  the club put the prize money towards ensuring it didn’t lose any of the ground it had gained in creating a positive and equitable environment for its female members of all ages.  

The national award recognised the club’s achievement in catering for the needs of its female players at the soccer club based in Faithlegg, Co Waterford.  

It did this by providing education for its players and coaches on the menstrual cycle, providing free sanitary products in toilets and first aid kits, changing the colour of club shorts from white to red and allowing female teams design their own jerseys. This was in addition to providing state-of-the-art architect-designed female toilets.  The menstrual cycle is recognised as a key barrier to female participation in sport while participation in sport is very important for positive mental health. 

The Female Focus Campaign came about after then club chairman Michael Cox had attended a workshop on the participation of women in sport hosted by Move2B, a female-focused sports psychology and physiology social enterprise. 

“It made me realise that the menstrual cycle is a much more significant barrier to sport than we were cognitive of. It opened my eyes to what a taboo it was. The realisation was that a lot of the coaches of the women and girls are male. That meant the menstrual cycle was unspoken, unheard, unseen, but yet it was a major factor in terms of players being unable to make training or matches,” Michael says. 

The club joined forces with Move2B and held workshops for the female players, the coaches and then the two groups together. 

The Female Focus Campaign had three main pillars to it – to Educate (via the workshops), to Equip (with toilets, new jerseys, and sanitary products) and to Encourage (via a poster campaign and talks in schools).  

Its outcomes have been quite astonishing. The report on the project by Move2B made such an impression that Sport Ireland and the FAI said they would distribute it to their members. “The most extraordinary outcome was that we had 2.5 times the national average for female participation in our sport. That was quite phenomenal,” Michael says.  

Karina Ray coaches the U19 girls at the club and plays for the women’s team. She has been with Park Rangers AFC since she was 11.  

“The campaign made a major difference. Taking the taboo out of women’s menstrual cycles for everybody in the club was really, really big, especially for the younger girls and their male coaches,” she says. 

“The players were able to come up and say if they had a period that week or if they just weren’t feeling up to training or anything like that. I have two males coaching with me and the girls wouldn’t only approach me, they’d approach the men as well.”  

Avril Bowe took over from Michael as chairperson of the club in 2022 and has continued to build on the achievements of the Female Focus Campaign. “Being able to carry on that mantel has been really important particularly with the funding that we got as part of winning our category. It was great,” she says.  

"The next phase was to ensure that we maintained our progress. Our membership went up to 34 percent female participation in the club. It was really important that that didn’t fall off because that would really just have been tokenism then.” “What has happened over the past two years is that we now for the first time have a full succession in the club so a little girl can start in the club at three or four years of age in our academy, which we have really strengthened, and can continue right through the age groups to the women’s team.” The club has also seen an unexpected positive outcome from the campaign. “We’ve had a number of volunteers step up saying they want to be part of this. I’m chairperson and our club secretary is a female and so is our treasurer. Not only has it helped us with our profile in terms of being a club that is very female focused on the pitch, but it has also made us female focused off the pitch,” Avril says.  

“Making participation equitable has made financial sense too. It has attracted more members and sponsors who want to be in a club that does its utmost for our females.”




Meanwhile, the National Lottery have officially launched this year’s National Lottery Good Causes Awards. The awards  honours the inspiring work and achievements of projects, clubs and individuals all over Ireland, like Park Rangers FC, who, with the help of National Lottery Good Causes funding, have had an extraordinary impact on their local communities. 

Individuals, community projects and organisations who received Good Causes funding between the years 2019 and 2023 are eligible to apply. Applications for the Awards are now open and beneficiaries can enter and check eligibility at www.lottery.ie/goodcausesawards.

  The Awards will have seven categories which are: 


• Sport. Winning through inclusion.    

• Health and Wellbeing. Promoting healthier & happier communities.    

• Arts & Culture. Celebrating Irish creativity. 

• Heritage. Protect, preserve and promote.    

• Community. Enriching the fabric of Irish life.     

• Youth. Nurturing Ireland’s Next Generation.      

• Irish Language. Cothú grá na cainte 

A special category, ‘Hero of the Year’, will also be announced at the Awards final, in recognition of outstanding work done by an individual within an organisation and will receive a prize of €5,000. 

Each category winner will receive €10,000 while the overall Good Cause of the Year will receive an additional €25,000. 

Nearly 30 cent in every €1 spent on all National Lottery games goes back to Good Causes in the areas of sport, youth, health, welfare, education, arts, heritage, and the Irish Language. In total more than €6 Billion has been raised for Good Causes since the National Lottery was established 36 years ago. In 2022 alone, €259.5 Million was raised for local Good Causes in communities across Ireland.               

  The National Lottery, 18+ Support Responsibly