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Limerick and Tyrone stars speak out as amalgamation motion gathers momentum

‘As a male inter-county footballer, by standing by and being quiet, you are part of the problem here.’

Tyrone's Conor Meyler and Limerick's Gearóid Hegarty are calling for a 'Yes' vote at GAA Congress on Saturday.
Tyrone's Conor Meyler and Limerick's Gearóid Hegarty are calling for a 'Yes' vote at GAA Congress on Saturday.
Image: Inpho Sports.

LIMERICK AND TYRONE All-Ireland champions Gearóid Hegarty and Conor Meyler are among the current male inter-county stars speaking out as momentum behind a motion regarding amalgamation of the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association grows.

The Gaelic Players’ Association [GPA] has submitted a motion for consideration at GAA Congress this weekend “urging the GAA to take proactive, meaningful and swift action to expediate integration with the LGFA and the Camogie Association”. 

While countless female players have spoken out through the years, more and more male voices are now coming to the fore.

In a column published on the GPA website entitled ‘Yes vote at GAA Congress could transcend sporting boundaries,’ Treaty senior hurler Hegarty shared a passionate plea.

The 2020 Hurler of the Year and two-time All Star wrote: “Do male members of the GAA actually understand the differences in terms of how our female counterparts are treated in comparison to us? I do because I see it all the time.

“My girlfriend Niamh plays football for Dromcollogher/Broadford and captained Limerick as they reached the junior All-Ireland semi-final in 2020.

“She has since drawn a line under her inter-county career. Was that solely down to how female athletes in our games are treated? No. But did the way female athletes in our games are treated make her decision easier? Definitely. It’s so much easier to just say, ‘I’m not going to bother anymore,’ which is a shame but understandable.

“Here’s just one example of what she has been through. Niamh won the intermediate football title in Limerick last year, qualifying for a Munster quarter-final. That game was scheduled for the same weekend as the Limerick camogie finals. A number of dual players were involved. They were told that they would have to make a choice and wouldn’t be considered for the camogie final on the Sunday if they played the football quarter-final on the Friday night.

“Imagine 21- and 22-year-olds being put in that position. Missing players, they lost the football game. That sickened Niamh as you don’t get too many goes at winning Munster.  A lot of those girls have now gone to Australia so the likelihood is they won’t get another chance.

“The management teams involved were doing the best for the teams they were in charge of but ultimately it comes down to two separate governing bodies in the female codes. That wouldn’t happen in the men’s codes as a solution would have been found by the GAA. These kinds of things occur too regularly.”

“If you just look at a baseline of how women are treated compared to how men are treated there’s a massive chasm,” Hegarty later added.

“That’s from fixture clashes to access to facilities to female players being asked to pay to play. They have to ask themselves, ‘Can I afford it?’

conor-meyler Conor Meyler speaking at the GPA media briefing alongside Tom Parsons and Gemma Begley. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

At a GPA press conference in Dublin on Monday, Red Hand All-Star Meyler stated that the GAA have the chance to “set the tone” in society by passing the motion.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, the Omagh St Enda’s clubman added: “If we look at other national sporting bodies and how they’ve integrated, this is something that is doable.

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“As a male inter-county footballer, by standing by and being quiet, you are part of the problem here.

“A lot of us think it’s okay to say nothing. We’ve probably all seen and heard of stories that have happened within ladies football and the Camogie Association the lack of pitches and food and preparation and all the rest.

“We turn a bit of a blind eye to it. We need more male role models to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t on, this isn’t right’, from a societal point of view as much as anything.”

GAA Congress takes place in Bekan on Saturday.

- updated to amend the location of Congress.

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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