Female players urge GAA to ‘amalgamate and start again’ for equality

Wexford camogie goalkeeper Mags D’Arcy says female GAA players will never get equal treatment or publicity unless their two associations amalgamate with the GAA.
Female players urge GAA to ‘amalgamate and start again’ for equality

Photo credit: At yesterday’s launch of the Liberty Insurance ‘A Game of Two Halves’ research on women in sport were, from left: former Irish rugby captain Fiona Coghlan; Olympic silver medalist Annalise Murphy; two-time Olympic pentathlete Natalya Coyle; Katie Burke, 11, Bettystown, Co Meath (wearing Annalise’s Olympic medal); and camogie all-star Mags D’Arcy. Picture: Naoise Culhane

Speaking at the launch of Liberty Insurance’s latest survey on women in sport — entitled ‘A Game of Two Halves’ — the two-time All Star said: “It would need everything wiped, to start again and, let’s be honest, that is scary.

“But it’s also very exciting and it would take someone really strong to bring it to that natural progression,” the four-time All-Ireland winner said.

“We just need to be rash and do it because otherwise we’re going to have this exact same conversation in 10 years time.

“In Wexford, we’re very lucky,” she expanded.

“We have a fabulous county board who have basically amalgamated with the men’s section which is why we’re a happy bunch of players.

“We get to use Wexford GAA’s Centre of Excellence and why wouldn’t we? They have four pitches and we’re given the same facilities and basics in what we need, so we trained next to Davy Fitz’s men’s team last Friday.

“But, at the end of training, they got their hot food and we got our hot showers and went home.

“It was a crime seeing them bringing all the leftover food out to the bin with us asking ‘can we just have a little bit of that?’

“It’s a crying shame! There’s so much support and resources there, why don’t we put us all under the same umbrella nationally?”

D’Arcy pleaded: “It won’t cost us that much to bring us (women) in. All the infrastructure and resources are there. I’d have liked to have seen this 10 years ago and, as a current player, I’m still talking about it!

“We play some matches before the (inter-county) men at the moment but I’d like to see a total restructuring where our county is in the same championship as the men and, if the lads are going away to play Limerick, so are the women.

“Since 2007 our game has changed hugely,” D’Arcy added. “The speed, the skills, the efficiency of play, everything’s got better which means we require more resources and infrastructure to keep that standard up. Having a manifesto that has ladies football, camogie, hurling and gaelic football under the one umbrella and then having men and women playing together, with the same television coverage and production values, that’s the only way forward.”

Liberty have commissioned several surveys about women’s sport and revealed their latest statistics yesterday to coincide with International Women’s Day.

D’Arcy was sharing a stage with Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, Olympic pentathlete Natalya Coyle, and Irish women’s Grand Slam captain Fiona Coghlan.

Murphy and Coyle pointed out that they are supported solely on the basis of their achievements, not their gender, by organisations who govern both men and women.

Rio sailing medallist Murphy said some female athletes actually have even greater opportunities to be successful than their male counterparts due to numbers.

“In my sport, the female talent pool is a lot smaller than the men’s so there are so many opportunities for girls in sailing. I tell our youth squad that all the time,” the Dublin sailor said.

“Of course I tell them they’re going to have to work hard as well but, as females, they have a great chance to do exceptional things.”

When Coghlan led Ireland to the Grand Slam in 2013 and their historic win over New Zealand a year later they were all amateur players with an unpaid coach. Women’s rugby is now included under the IRFU’s High Performance programme, has a paid coach and some athletes (Sevens only) on semi-professional contracts. Yet Coghlan said she does not see the Irish women’s 15s game going professional anytime soon, something that has happened in England and France.

“It’s definitely something that needs to be looked at if you want to keep pace with the top teams,” Coghlan said. “But the funding model has to be looked at. The men’s game is driving the women’s game at the moment. More sponsorship and TV rights helps and I’d love to see it. It would bring a lot more opportunities, women could see rugby as a career. I just don’t see there’s enough money in the game yet to sustain it.”

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