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'I’ve only played in Croke Park once and I’ve been playing with Kerry for 9 years. It’s nice to get back'

Kerry’s Aislinn Desmond and Dublin’s Lyndsey Davey approve the move to bring in double-headers.

LADIES FOOTBALL STARS from Kerry and Dublin have hailed the decision to pair several league games with their male counterparts during the spring.

The Dublin players parade The Dublin and Mayo players parade before the 2017 All-Ireland ladies final Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) announced last week that eight Lidl National League fixtures will serve as curtain-raisers ahead of matches involving the men’s teams from the host counties.

Mick Bohan’s Dublin ladies will play at Croke Park twice during the forthcoming campaign, against Cork and Kerry, before both counties are in action against Jim Gavin’s side in Division 1 of the Allianz Football League.

On 24 February, Castlebar will host mouthwatering rematches of the 2017 ladies and men’s All-Ireland football finals between Mayo and the Dubs.

“I think it’s fantastic for the promotion of the sport,” says Dublin forward Lyndsey Davey.

“We would have played one game here (in Croke Park) last year before the men against Mayo. There’s been so many times we’ve been down the country playing even Kerry and us and the men were in two different venues.

“I suppose if you are doing that you are making the supporters choose and ultimately with the profile the men have, they are going to choose the men. But playing the double headers, I think there are eight in total with the LGFA and we have three of them.

“It’s fantastic. It really is great for the promotion of the sport and I think when you seen 46,000 supporters coming to the All-Ireland final last year to watch us, hopefully again with these double headers the numbers will increase this year.

GAA Healthy Club Evaluation Report Launch Davey was in Croke Park for the GAA Healthy Club launch Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

“If more and more people are getting to watch your games and if the standard is good, hopefully that will encourage more people to come out in championship.”

Kerry’s 2015 All-Star Aislinn Desmond agrees with that sentiment. The full-back made her championship debut for the Kingdom in 2009, and has been an ever-present since then, but she’s lined out in Croke Park just once in her entire inter-county career.

On 3 March she’ll make her second appearance at HQ against the reigning All-Ireland champions.

“It’s an incentive now for us to train even harder and things like that because there are going to be so many supporters at the games,” says the Rathmore defender.

“It’s wonderful, we’re delighted and it’s great for ladies football.

“I’ve only played in Croke Park once – and I’ve been playing with the Kerry seniors now for nine or ten years. I’ve only played once there and that was the All-Ireland final against Cork in 2012. It’s nice to get back.”

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Desmond was in West Kerry to promote the Comórtas Peile Páidi Ó Sé 2018

Last November’s RTÉ documentary ‘Blues Sisters’ was another landmark for burgeoning women’s game. For Desmond and the rest of the Kerry squad, it gave an indicator of the level of professionalism they must reach to compete with Dublin.

“Everything was done to such precision and there was such dedication by the girls,” says Desmond.

“You could even see it with the analysis at half-time, the strength and conditioning they were doing throughout the year.

“The one thing I really seen with them was the unity within the team – team-bonding weekends – they literally had every single thing you need and it all paid off for them at the end of the year. After watching it, we realised how much more professional we needed to get.”

Lyndsey Davey Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In the feedback they received after the film aired, Davey said the general public were surprised at how hard they trained.

“I suppose it’s a concept of ‘women don’t train that hard’ and in people’s heads they don’t realise the athletes that we can be,” she says.

“It’s a stigma around it but I think we’ve made lots of work to try and erase that stigma. Even a lot of women in sport, you can be feminine and enjoy going out in your social life, but still be a strong athlete at the same time. I think that really is starting to change now.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Kevin O'Brien

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