Mayo captain Kathryn Sullivan. James Crombie/INPHO
captain sully

Mayo 'stung big time' by AFLW, team-mate's expenses gripe and amalgamation hopes

Kathryn Sullivan’s Green and Red face Tipperary in their All-Ireland championship opener on Saturday.

MAYO HAVE BEEN without several of their top stars so far this season.

And that’s set to continue as Michael Moyles’ Green and Red open their All-Ireland championship bid against Tipperary at MacHale Park on Saturday [throw-in 2pm].

Sarah Rowe, Niamh and Grace Kelly and Aileen Gilroy were all glaring omissions when the county’s championship panel was announced in early May. Rachel Kearns was their only AFLW player included, with Cora Stauton long stepped away from the inter-county scene.

While in years gone by, players were afforded the best of both worlds, a recent change of timing to the Australian season means both codes can no longer be balanced as easily.

And many Irish AFLW stars have opted against inter-county duty for 2022.

“We’re probably the one team in the country that are getting stung big time with the AFLW,” Mayo captain Kathryn Sullivan said at the TG4 All-Ireland championship launch.

“It’s a shame that it can’t work both ways, that they’ve changed [the season schedule]. It was a very difficult decision for the girls to make, not being able to commit. It’s the right decision for them.

“We’re going to miss them big time. We have a great panel there, a lot of youth mixed with a lot of experience. It’s going well. We just have to get on with it, and not dwell on these kinds of things.

I wouldn’t begrudge them. There’s no badness in it whatsoever. If I was given the chance 10 years ago, I would have jumped at it. It’s a great opportunity. You look at what they did over there recently with the big pay rise. You’re playing professional sport, living as a professional athlete. It’s a great opportunity for any young sportsperson.

“It sounds like it’s only going to get bigger. It’s disappointing that it can’t work for both worlds. The LGFA is really getting hit with this now the last number of years.”

Sullivan herself started playing senior inter-county football in 2007.

She made her debut against Galway 15 years ago, but took some time away in 2015 and 2016, before the Mayo’s 2017 All-Ireland appearance gave her “an itch” to return.

kathryn-sullivan Sullivan on the ball last year. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m one of the more experienced players on the team. I still have a bit left in me for another year or two,” the Castlebar Mitchels defender smiles. “We’ll see what happens.

“I really believe in this squad. I know it’s changed with players coming in, players leaving the last number of years. I just think there’s something there. If you have belief, anything is possible. The group of girls that are there, they are my best friends. I’m just enjoying it. I always say that I’ll keep playing and playing until that stops.”

‘Sully,’ who works in The Movement, a gym operated by Mayo great Andy Moran, has seen it all by now. 

A fellow long-serving team-mate, Fiona MacHale, recently took to social media and summed up the harsh reality of being an inter-county footballer.

“Can confirm LGFA players DO NOT get expenses. If I were to claim mileage the way the men do, my weekly travel expenses would be €474.50,” the Carnacon stalwart and WGPA founding member wrote on Twitter.

While Sullivan chose not top follow McHale’s lead and reveal how much it costs her to play, she rowed in behind her team-mate.

“We do a lot of carpooling. I owe a lot of people lifts! I saw that with Fiona. Fair play to her. She’s always one to speak her mind. She’s definitely right by saying what she did.

“Is it getting better? It definitely is getting some way better. It’s still a long way out. Events like this [championship launch], you’re taken care of a small bit, but you have to take a day off work, essentially. I wouldn’t have a lot to give out about. It’s definitely getting better the last number of years.”

“For us, in Mayo, we’re well looked after. It’s difficult for teams at this time of year to get pitches,” she later adds, noting that Mayo train at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan, had access to the Air Dome in the winter and are also granted that of MacHale Park.

“I saw something down there in Kerry, and I couldn’t understand it. That’s disappointing to see. If it’s happening down in Kerry, it’s probably happening in other places. It just shouldn’t be happening in this day and age. The way ladies football has gone, it’s just as good a sport as GAA. It should be all level with regards training pitches and all that.”

Amalgamation of the LGFA with the GAA and Camogie Association could go some way in addressing these issues, Sullivan believes.

“Definitely. The ball is rolling there already. I didn’t think it would happen so quick. I thought it would be about 10 years off. I think it’s going to happen sooner rather than later, which is great for ladies football.”


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