By Chris McNulty
The organisation which runs ladies Gaelic football is facing a possible split over plans to scrap inter-county championships at youth level and replace them with blitzes.
Coaches in some counties have talked openly of forming a breakaway organisation that would split the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) down the middle.
Under the shock new proposals by the LGFA to be introduced in just three months, U14 and U16 provincial championships are to be scrapped, as well as the U15 Ulster Development League.
Instead, players will take part in two national blitz days and counties then graded on the basis of their performance.
The last minor championship would also be played in 2019 to be replaced from 2020 by the blitzes, to be run under the ‘festival of football’ banner at U17 level, while a new U20 inter-county competition would begin in 2020.
The LGFA says the aim of the blitzes is to increase participation in ladies football, but replacing inter-county football with blitzes normally associated with U6, U8 and U10 girls football is facing a huge backlash.
At a meeting of Munster counties this week, concerns were voiced about counties losing players to other sports, with a high volume of delegates critical of the new format requiring overnight stays that would cost upwards of €5,000 per trip.
Last week, all nine Ulster counties opposed the plans when they were presented at a frosty ‘workshop’ at Kelly’s Inn in Co Tyrone by Lyn Savage, the LGFA games development manager.
She was joined by former Dublin goalkeeper Cliodhna O’Connor and academic Aine McNamara.
“Delegates questioned their proposals and, while it was stressed these are only proposals to be taken back to national council and fixtures in November, most delegates from the nine Ulster counties felt it was a cosmetic presentation as they feel it’s a done deal,” said one delegate.
They turn up in the middle of October with these proposals to be signed off next month.
“This could lead to a split in the LGFA or an overthrow of those in charge. We are hearing that Connacht and Munster also oppose the proposals.
"A lot of coaches are planning to walk away.”
Another delegate said: “Grassroots, players and coaches had no input at all on the proposals and the absence of any member from Ulster on the panel who worked on these proposals was also highlighted.
They haven’t even bothered to speak to senior players who came through the underage system.
“Under the new system, there is no consideration for child welfare for these blitzes. Girls from West Cork, Antrim, Kerry, and Donegal will have to be leaving home at 3am to travel to these games. It’s absolute madness.”