In the course of her stellar career Valerie Mulcahy learned how to take her scores. Yesterday she showed that her aim is just as true off the field.
The 10-time All Ireland winning footballer sparked a standing ovation at a conference attended by solicitors from around the country in an address that could make for uncomfortable listening for the GAA.
Ms Mulcahy, who was also at the forefront of the marriage equality campaign last year, announced her retirement this week and opened up on the frustration of being a “second-class” citizen in the sport she loves.
She made her point by placing her friend, Cork dual star Eoin Cadogan, himself a vocal supporter of the #byherside campaign backing women players, in the shoes of Cork dual player Briege Corkery.
The story, as experienced by Ms Corkery last year, featured one game in the morning, rescheduled due to a fixture clash that meant the men had to be facilitated, with no organised transport, no shower afterwards, a 50-minute drive to a second match in Mallow with a pre-match meal of “jellies and fruit”, no hot water afterwards for a shower, and “self-blame” for the defeat.
“This happened last season,” she said. “This neglect of player welfare would not be tolerated in men’s game.”
She also said that despite an increase in national media coverage of women’s GAA in the past year, more needed to be done, adding: “Television needs a very significant improvement.”
She said she did not want “preferential treatment” but “a legacy to be proud of”.
She said the Women’s Gaelic Players Association would be striving to bring about those improvements and said: “There are plenty of cracks in the ethics of our sport but finally the light is coming in.”
Another speaker at the ‘Law in Sport — Sport in Law’ conference, Sonia O’Sullivan, said she had been lucky women “trailblazers” had gone before her and that athletics was one sport where men and women were treated equally.
However, going back over her own career, she recalled the “devastating” impact of losing out to Chinese runners at the 1993 World Championships in circumstances now being reviewed by the world athletics body the IAAF.
“We will just have to wait and see what happens with that,” she said, before recalling other episodes including the “little bit traumatic” change of running gear before an Olympic final due to a wrangle over contracts, and the nature of Olympic contracts for athletes. She said she never actually signed one. “I just used to keep putting it off, putting it off, putting it off.”
She also said that last year she tried to get on the IAAF board but then media revelations about doping made her change her mind. Of IAAF president Seb Coe she said: “His heart wants to clean up the sport but I don’t think he can do it all by himself.
Speakers today include journalist David Walsh and Judy Khan QC, who represented 77 of the families of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
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