Republic of Ireland striker Áine O'Gorman believes that the announcement of a new sponsorship deal for the Women's National League is an important step on the road to the league becoming semi-professional.

SSE Airtricity has become the new main sponsor for the women's domestic league as well as the men's Premier Division.

O'Gorman believes that the new agreement can play a part in ending the 'pay to play' situation that female footballers in Ireland find themselves in.

Unlike their male counterparts, the vast majority of players in the Women's National League must either pay out of their own pockets or chase sponsorship deals to fund annual club membership and travel expenses.

The Peamount striker hopes the new sponsorship deal can lead to bigger and brighter things for the women's game in this country.

"I spoke to some people in SSE Airtricity earlier today and they do have great plans," she said.

"They are really excited to have the WNL onboard but nothing is set in stone yet. It's in their hands now. All we can do is improve our standards and hopefully the rest will happen.

"The clubs do the best they can. They need the money to run the club if they want to get buses to matches, food before training, physios at games. The backing of SSE Airtricity and hopefully increased prize money means that hopefully there's a situation where players don't have to pay any more.

"We should be striving to get semi-professional. We have to look at getting rid of pay to play first. We're all completely amateurs so if we strive for semi-professional status we can have a really good elite environment."

Steps are being made towards parity between male and female teams within Ireland and Bohemians recently announced that they would be paying expenses to their women's team.

However, while that's a move in the right direction, it's very much an outlier at the moment. 

"The move by Bohemians is a step in the right direction," O'Gorman said.

"As is Noel King returning to the women's game to manage Shelbourne, but the reality is that at most clubs we do have to pay a fee."