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Meaningful action must follow Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Co. speaking out

The Kerry star is pictured on the front of the county’s Centre of Excellence, though her team’s access to the facility has been limited.

A SCAN THROUGH this morning’s newspapers, or a scroll across the online platforms, and one story dominates.

A sample of the headlines in question:

Kerry star annoyed by lack of access to county’s Centre of Excellence

‘We want to be treated the same and equal’ – Kerry ace Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh

Ladies’ lack of access to Centre of Excellence is ‘annoying’ says Kerry star Ní Mhuircheartaigh

Screenshot 2022-05-20 14.56.50 PwC GPA Player of the Month for March in ladies football, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh of Kerry with her award. Source: SPORTSFILE.

One of the finest forwards in the game of ladies football, Ní Mhuircheartaigh was named PwC GPA Women’s Player of the Month in football for March on Thursday.

The resultant interview threw up some interesting quotes.

Kerry’s Centre of Excellence in Currans was the team’s base last year, but they have had limited access so far in 2022, as she explained.

“We have been in Currans maybe once or twice since, but we don’t know what’s the story,” Ní Mhuircheartaigh, who’s now in her 15th season of inter-county football, told reporters. “We were there every session really [last year], especially come championship we were there.

“It’s annoying, especially when they have four photos on the front of it, and I’m one of them, but we are not allowed in there. It is a bit annoying, and you are wondering what’s the difference. I don’t know but I’ll probably get in trouble for talking about this.”

“The IT have been excellent to us and few club grounds were very good to us leading up to the [Division 2] league final,” she added.

Three of the four photos she speaks of are of footballers Maurice Fitzgerald, Seanie O’Shea, and hurler Shane Conway. The other is of Ní Mhuircheartaigh herself.

Her picture is on the front of the facility, suggesting inclusivity, yet she and her team-mates can’t train there regularly.

What changed this year?

kerins Source: Kerry GAA.

In a statement released to Balls.ie, Kerry GAA  said that it “has been in discussions with the Kerry LGFA in relation to their use of the Centre of Excellence facilities in Currans and the future development of one of the two undeveloped pitches in the complex for specific use by the Kerry LGFA and Kerry Camogie.

“The Kerry LGFA have been accommodated with training facilities at the Centre of Excellence over the past number of years and this will continue to be the case.

“We look forward to working in close collaboration with Kerry LGFA to bring our collective future development plans to fruition.”

Some may take issue with the word “accommodated” there.

We must, of course, remember that there are different associations at play here. The GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association are completely separate bodies, and will be unless amalgamation is achieved.

Minus a few exceptions — Armagh’s McKeever Park in Killean, for one — the GAA own the pitches and facilities.

But it’s worth referencing a comment by Kerry GAA county committee chairman Tim Murphy from 2020 in the wake of this Currans controversy.

“The important message is that this is a facility for the GAA in Kerry, and that means all units of the GAA in Kerry, inter-county teams, football, hurling and ladies, clubs, schools, everyone,” he told Paul Brennan of The Kerryman.

The facilities wrangle is one that has blown up time and time again through the years.

Likewise, the argument for amalgamation.

kelly-mallon-scores-her-sides-fifth-goal-despite-emma-mulgrew File pic of Armagh's Kelly Mallon facing Emma Mulgrew of Tyrone. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Both were touched on in an interview with Gemma Begley, former Tyrone star and the GPA’s first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, for The42 last year.

“All the conversations I’m having at the minute seem to flow to the natural end point of integration solves an awful lot of the problems and challenges that the females face in terms of access and pitches,” she told this writer.

“We can take it back to Tyrone, the girls have to pay €90, I think it is, a session to access the Centre of Excellence. When I have this conversation with people, it still shocks them and I’m like, ‘I’m sick telling people about this’. The fact that they have to pay €90 to access a GAA facility, it drives me mad because it’s so nonsensical. Everyone’s playing in the same jersey, you’re representing the same people, it’s so mixed through families, all the supporters club within Tyrone feel like they’re supporting all codes, and yet, the females still don’t have any of their own facilities.

“You’re basically at the whim of the men to decide who gets on the pitch, and you’re tenth in the pecking order behind all the men’s development teams and minors and that. I do just think that the three Associations being separate at this point is like a hangover of just the way things used to be, and it’s time to just move on.”

Ní Mhuircheartaigh was of the same opinion yesterday.

“That’s what every single ladies footballer wants,” she enthused, “to be merging with the GAA and working hand-in-hand and working together and be 100 per cent treated the same and equally.

“That’s what we want and what everyone wants. Even the male players, that’s what they want too because they see we do the exact same training as they do and [put in] the same commitment and spend the same amount of time training.”

Today’s headlines come after  more home truths were exposed last night.

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Those involved in women’s Gaelic games circles need no reminding of any of this, but those on the outside looking in may not be aware.

“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,” Mayo stalwart and WGPA founding member alongside Begley, Fiona McHale, wrote on Twitter.

Her comments were in response to BBC’s GAA Social podcast, which featured Armagh LGFA chairperson Sinéad Reel and captain Kelly Mallon as guests this week. 

“They don’t get expenses in my opinion. They don’t get enough,” Reel said within.

“They get covered for going to a game in Clones because we don’t have a bus and you put in your travel expense. The girls don’t put in travel expenses for training, they don’t get paid [the full amount] to drive from Armagh to Killean or Lurgan to Killean or whatever. That’s still not happening.”

Mallon revealed she received £600/£650 for roughly 50 training sessions and games in 2021, while Reel later clarified her stance given the fact that players aren’t compensated fully. 

One point that certainly lingers is Ní Mhuircheartaigh saying she will “probably get in trouble for talking about this”.

She shouldn’t have to fear backlash for speaking the truth.

For sharing her opinion on something that directly impacts her, and for undoubtedly holding back by just labelling the situation “annoying”.

McHale, Reel, Begley and Co. may feel similarly.

Fair play to them all for speaking out.

Over to the echo.

And, most importantly, the actions which must follow.

BTL 5

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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