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'You have to raise the issues, and highlight them' - Kerry set the off-field standard

From the Centre of Excellence access debacle to expenses, the All-Ireland finalists haven’t just been in the headlines for their on-field exploits.

Updated Jul 28th 2022, 8:05 AM

KERRY ARE IN the All-Ireland senior ladies football final for the first time since 2012.

They face champions Meath as they look to end a 29-year wait for glory on Sunday; 1993 the last time the traditional ladies football kingpins and game’s true aristocrats lifted the Brendan Martin Cup.

Screen Shot 2022-07-27 at 18.41.51 Kerry captain Anna Galvin at the 2022 All-Ireland ladies football finals launch. Source: SPORTSFILE.

Declan Quill and Darragh Long’s side are unquestionably underdogs coming into this one. Rank outsiders. But the Kingdom has undergone an impressive rebuild in recent years, contesting a senior relegation play-off last season before enjoying an impressive 2022 in which they have already delivered Division 2 league success.

They’ve ticked off plenty of boxes over the past few months, some of them off-field ones.

In the weeks following that league success, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh was named PwC GPA Women’s Player of the Month. She used her winning interview to highlight her team’s limited access to the county’s Centre of Excellence. The facility in Currans was the team’s base last year, but they had pretty much been shut out up to that point in 2022.

Perhaps what was particularly jarring for Ní Mhuircheartaigh was that fact that she’s one of four players pictured to the front of the building.

“If Louise can’t talk after 15 years in a Kerry jersey then who can?” Quill asked at this week’s All-Ireland finals launch. “It’s her place to do that and highlight these things for the girls and this is not just for Kerry girls, it’s for the hundreds of girls around the country.

“The Centre of Excellence thing, look it was big deal at the time, we have been in there for the last few weeks preparing , they are doing the pitches up over there and probably the biggest problem with access this year was the pitches weren’t in the best of state and we were the team to lose out. In one way you can understand it is a GAA facility, they have to look after their own lads and all that.

“But what Louise said, I didn’t see anything wrong with it, you have to highlight these things, Anna Galvin is highlighting how much it is costing her. I think Orlagh Farmer did the same a few years ago in Cork saying how much she would have made from her travelling expenses, but the amount of people that don’t know the LGFA and the GAA are different organisations is astounding.

currans Source: Kerry GAA.

“Sure, when you’re training at a club field you’re using a GAA facility. When you’re training at Currans you’re using a GAA facility. I think it blows peoples’ minds at times, the fact that a Kerry senior could drive from Tralee to Killarney to training and he gets compensated for that whereas Anna (Galvin) can drive down from Dublin, Aishling O’Connell is a Guard down in Bandon, she’s driving every night to training and back. The amount of money that’s costing them, they’re not getting a penny for it, but people think they are.

“These things need to be highlighted. The girls are very well looked after in Kerry, we have to say. Since we came in the county board have very rarely said, ‘No,’ to us. They do their best with what they have and the resources they have. I still think it could go up a couple of levels across the board for all the girls in all the counties. They should make sure that they get fed after every training session. There should be a physio at every training session. Things like that. Things that cost money. But you ask any of the girls below in our camp at the moment and they’d say they’re very, very happy with whatever they’ve been given this year.”

Quill mentioned Anna Galvin. In a survey for The42, the Kerry captain, who lives and works in Dublins and travels back home regularly for training, recorded monthly expenses of €1,792.

Just staggering commitment.

“Anna is an inspirational character, when she speaks girls listen,” he agrees, rhyming off four or five other panel members with lengthy commutes. “They’re just happy to do it.

“Like I said, it is costing them money and all that, but we never heard a complaint from them. I suppose this survey that Anna was involved in, that was the big news headline at the time, but we did know Anna was doing that and she’s never complained to us about having to come down. She texts us sometimes during the week when we’re not expecting it to say, ‘I’ll be there tonight’. We’re like, ‘Are you sure you want to come tonight? You don’t have to, like.’ And she’ll say, ‘No, I have to be there tonight for the girls’. That’s why she’s our captain.”

anna-galvin-and-her-team-mates-celebrate-with-the-cup Galvin and her team-mates celebrate with the Division 2 league title. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Galvin told The42 at the time of the survey her efforts were “not sustainable,” and Quill agreed wholeheartedly, revealing uncertainty over whether she will commit for 2023.

“Definitely not. And it’s something we’re worried about because Anna is only 26. We’re going, ‘Will she even play next year?’ You just don’t know, like,” the joint-manager revealed.

“She’s trying to make rent in Dublin, she’s trying to feed herself, she’s trying to put fuel in the car and come to training and she’s not the only one. Anna was one of the girls who highlighted it in that survey. Is it sustainable? I wouldn’t think so. And that’s a shame because you’re going to lose an awful lot more top players our of the game because of that. I don’t know what the long-term solution is.

“In my opinion, the girls should be compensated every time the girls get into their car. There should be some kind of a deal there for two or three nights a week. But, look, it’s outside of my control. I have highlighted it before after games and have gone on Radio 1 talking about it and things like that. It’s something that I’d be passionate about but you’re not going to change.”

Galvin was next up in the firing line for interview at the launch, with her coaches’ concerns relayed to her. “Are they retiring me?! Are they dropping me?! Jaysis,” she laughed.

“Ah look, I haven’t even thought that far down the line. Cross one bridge as it comes. When you’re in it, you can’t think about these things. When you have a bit of time off, you have time to reflect on the situation and what it’s like to not be travelling up and down the road all the time.

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“But then again, when you’re playing and so heavily involved, you miss it. You enjoy the freedom for a little while and then you’re like, ‘Jesus, I need to be reined back in here, give me some training sessions!’ Ah look, we’ll assess it. Each winter you have to take stock, take time, give your mind and body a rest and then go again.”

What about the reaction to highlighting the expenses issue? “A lot of shock, a lot of disbelief,” the star forward nods.

kerry-team-during-the-parade Galvin and Kerry march behind the band on All-Ireland semi-final day. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“People are just astonished at how expensive it is. There was a lot of, ‘Fair play,’ sort of attitude for sticking at it, and following your dream, following what you love. It was a bit two-fold as well.

“There is a disappointment that there is such a gap still. You look at people who have daughters playing, and they might think, ‘Why would I encourage them to stay in this? How is this sustainable for them to stay in this game?’ I do think that we will see change in the near future, and I think that highlighting the issues is really, really positive.

“Hopefully, we can get a bit more traction with the merger for the integration of the LGFA, GAA, and Camogie Association. Hopefully now we see some action on that and some actions are put in place or a timeline at the very least is put in place.”

Galvin sees the off-field issues as “a bit of a distraction,” but firmly focuses on the job at hand and the end goal.

That said, it’s been pleasing to raise matters as such while being so competitive.

“If you’re in a position, and have a platform – I don’t how much of a one that we have – you have to take them if you’re given the privilege of being able to talk to people, you have to raise the issues, and highlight them.

“These are side pieces, which are obviously really, really important. That position to be able to speak about them only comes if you are performing on the pitch. The lads are really good at keeping our heads screwed on, and making us focus on training when we’re there. We’ve been able to manage that divide quite well.”

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Emma Duffy

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