“An absolutely huge” week for female inter-county players highlights the “respect” they now command, Dublin camogie player Leah Butler has said.
Monday’s announcement of a tripling in Government funding for female inter-county players was followed on Tuesday by a Camogie Association calendar U-turn and confirmation that a split season would be implemented in 2021.
The two announcements, according to Butler and five-time All-Ireland winning Dublin footballer Lyndsey Davey, indicate the extent to which female inter-county players are now being listened to.
Camogie top-brass had initially favoured a National League-club championship-All-Ireland championship schedule, but committed to a review of this decision following strong criticism from the inter-county playing body, of whom 82% support a split season.
“It is amazing progress. We never had this much respect shown to us,” said Butler of the split season decision and the equalisation of government funding for male and female inter-county players.
“We had the WGPA helping us get the camogie calendar decision changed, we wouldn’t have had that before. We have the voices now and the voices are actually being listened to.”
Dublin footballer Davey, looking in from the outside, recognised the importance of the Camogie U-turn.
“84% of players spoke out against [the initial decision] and said they weren’t happy to play winter championship again and the fact that the association listened to them and that they’ve gone and changed it, it’s fantastic that players are being listened to.”
With Butler and Davey reporting to be out of pocket as a result of inter-county commitments, Monday’s announcement from Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers that the annual government grant for female inter-county players will rise from €700k to €2.4m from this year on is a definite game-changer. No longer will they have to pay to play.
“Equal funding was needed, it is right, and that is the way it should be,” said Butler.
“For male players, it is so normal for them to get the little bit of support. We have to pay a lot to actually play for our county. I know the American soccer team have a mantra that they should not have to pay to play and it feels kind of like the same for us here. We cover all our own costs, petrol and stuff like that, all the things that probably the male teams take for granted.
“We are so, so grateful for what is after happening on Monday and we can’t wait to see where it is going to help our game improve in the future in terms of all the small things that you would not even think of that is costing players.”
Butler said she’d be afraid to calculate how much she has spent on fuel to get her to and from training and games since joining the Dublin panel.
Davey, having made her inter-county debut in 2004, is a lot longer on the road.
The 31-year-old forward marvels at the advances in funding, promotion of ladies football, coverage, and attendance figures that have been made during her time in blue.
“It’s kind of unbelievable to see the advances we’re making. It’s brilliant to still be playing while all of that is happening. Last year was the first year we would have received travel expenses, and it definitely does make a difference. It’s fantastic to see funding is going to be on par with the lads. It’s probably long overdue but you have to start somewhere and it’s fantastic that it’s being implemented now.”
The six-time All-Star said the decision of other Dublin football panellists in their 30s to commit to the 2021 season was a significant factor in her own call to go again for season number 18.