Speaking at their launch at Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar yesterday, the Waterford IT-based lecturer said they would ‘fully engage’ with both the Ladies Gaelic Football and Camogie associations.
Representatives on the top table in both codes were present, and Lane admitted that although ‘unfavourable issues’ needed to be addressed, the WGPA was eager to actively open communication channels to improve inter-county standards for players.
“Women in general are very respectful of each other in sport and we need to embrace that. We’re going to identify all the aspects we need to address, and of course we’re willing to engage,” she said. “I think if you look after your players, if you reward them and treat them with a little bit of respect, then they’ll reward the sport back. It’s a win-win situation.”
In a survey carried out by the WGPA, only one third of players had access to showers, 62% were out of pocket playing at intercounty level, 80% felt ‘overwhelmed’ and 60% felt ‘stressed’. Lane continued: “When I think of the word player, it comes from the concept of ‘play’, and play suggests enjoyment. We can’t lose that. We can’t forget the very thing that people took up the sport for in the first place. We have a lot of work to do. We’ve established a Member Support Line that will hopefully help people on a personal level. We know we’ve to tackle unfavourable situations, and that’ll take time, but this association is about the players, and will be led by the players.”
The WGPA executive committee also includes Cork ladies footballer Valerie Mulcahy and Cork camogie captain Anna Geary, as well as Mayo and Tyrone footballers Fiona McHale (secretary) and Gemma Begley, Wexford camogie player Kate Kelly (treasurer) along with former Clare camogie player Deirdre Murphy.
Each county team across both codes has a player representative in place who will communicate the views of the players on their squads to the WGPA Executive. As of yesterday, more than 400 had signed up, with membership free in the first year. However, it’s expected more will join in the coming weeks given the successful outcome.
“Players have to start putting themselves out there, and if they think something isn’t ok, then they have to act and speak up. And now, with the WGPA, hopefully players will do that in the knowledge that there’s an entire national body behind them to support them,” added Lane.
Guest speaker Jacqui Hurley alluded to claims a Cork GAA club was charging its female members to use the club’s gym facilities, while their male counterparts didn’t have to pay.
Similar stories were the common denominator among the hundred or so attendees and Hurley referred to the establishment of the WGPA as an ‘amazing’ move in changing such stories, not just for female GAA stars, but women’s sport in general in Ireland. “There is an appetite for change. Women don’t want to be seen to be moaning or bringing drama where it’s not needed, but there are issues that need to be addressed and supports must be put in place, and I applaud the WGPA for doing so,” she said.
A variety of high-profile athletes outside of the GAA realm attended, including former Olympic hurdler Derval O’Rourke and IRFU-contracted rugby sevens international Claire Keohane, while TD Lucinda Creighton also lent her support, as did GPA CEO Dessie Farrell.
Meanwhile, president of the Camogie Association Aileen Lawlor issued a statement referring to the national body’s take on the WGPA, saying: “Player welfare is a shared responsibility between players, coaches, referees, mentors and administrators. In recognition, the Camogie Association has had a National Player Welfare committee in place since 2009, drawing representation from all aspects of the game.
“We note the establishment of the WGPA who seek to represent the welfare and interests of intercounty players and we look forward to learning more about the WGPA and its priorities.”