Cork Ladies football chiefs have issued a blistering statement attacking their national executive's decision to cease underage All-Ireland championships this season.
Croke Park officials have decided against playing the U14, U16 and U18 grade competitions this year due to the impact caused by Covid-19 restrictions and resulting factors.
Howvever, Cork officials have described the reasoning as for not conducting these competitions as having "absolutely no credibility."
They added: "In a time when women in sport must fight for every inch of equality and are beginning to gain ground bit by bit, this is a slap in the face to the many players, parents and volunteers who drive the cause of equality forward."
In an emotive statement published on the board's official site, Cork chiefs counter each of the arguments made by the LGFA nationally around the decision.
"On the back of what has been an incredibly difficult time for all young people nationally, instilling a sense of hope and the promise of a brighter day was the only thing that kept many young people’s spirits up, the LGFA has offered a crushing blow to the dreams of young girls across the country.
"In a week where we should be rejoicing on the news that Ladies Football will receive, equal government funding, increased television coverage of our games, increased access to GAA County Stadia to showcase these games and mileage expenses for our players, we are still left to fight discrimination not from outside but most alarmingly from within our own association.
The reasoning that the LGFA cite for not conducting these competitions have absolutely no credibility.
Firstly, the exams only affect Minors in 2021 so these do not affect the U-14 or U-16 age group. Boys also sit the Leaving Cert and the GAA are holding their All-Ireland. Are we saying a girl is less equipped to handle both? What message is this sending to our girls?
Underage intercounty has always run in tandem with club games and a way to co-exist has always been found. Accepted this year is a shortened one, but not so much so that it cannot be done if the will exists.
Again, this does not affect the U14 age group and only a small number of U16 players would be affected. With the timeline that the LGFA has given Provincial Boards to complete its programme of games, the underage intercounty season would be completed prior to the commencement of the Adult club championships and the opening of Third level institutions, therefore the point is completely redundant.
The LGFA quotes anecdotal evidence that parents are reluctant to allow their daughters to return to intercounty football. We challenge the LGFA to show any evidence of this. If the feedback we have received from parents, players, coaches is anything to go by these groups are devastated by its cancellation.
In fact, petitions are springing up countywide by young girls to reinstate these games. One has been set up by a Cork minor which we have happily signed and shared with our clubs to do likewise We call on The LGFA to poll its county boards, county managers and its members in general, (none of whom were consulted before this decision was taken) and see what they want. Other sporting bodies who faced criticism lately due to unpopular decisions did just this and democracy won out as it should.
NPHET, The Irish Government and all relevant health agencies have deemed the return to play for underage intercounty to be appropriate, all other sporting bodies including the GAA, and camogie have embraced this stance but the LGFA seem to think differently. Are our girls more fragile, more susceptible, less equipped to deal with things than their brothers and sisters playing other sports are?
What message are we sending out ….?
You are Less, You are Weaker.
We will drive young girls away from our sport. How quickly we forget the message of 20×20.
Already 75 girls in Cork alone have pulled out of trials at U-16 and U-18 since this announcement, Coincidence? unlikely.
In its email to county boards the LGFA states that “It is essential to note that players are getting the opportunity to represent their counties throughout the provincial championship IF THEY SO WISH, and it is ONLY the All-Ireland stages, semi-finals, and finals, that are not taking place which would ONLY involve four teams at each grade A and B across Under 14, 16 and 18 level.”
Using that logic, we should cancel the Senior Championship as ONLY 4 teams will qualify for the Semi-finals.
If it’s ONLY affecting so few teams, should it not be easy to complete?
Cork have suggested, with the provincial finals due to be completed by the end of August, that the All-Ireland semi-finals could take place the first Wednesday in September with the finals played the same weekend as the Senior finals on 4th/5th September (when club games may not be played anyway).
Playing the All Ireland underage championship would entail ONE extra week, TWO games maximum per player, resulting in goodwill being restored and a fantastic weekend for Ladies football leading into the start of the county club championships. Having said all of this, we are open to any and all solutions. These girls would play Christmas day if they were asked.
In a time when women in sport must fight for every inch of equality and are beginning to gain ground bit by bit, this is a slap in the face to the many players, parents and volunteers who drive the cause of equality forward.
What message are we sending to these girls?
You are too weak to handle the multiple facets of life, but a boy can.
Your drive to succeed and achieve is admirable but not equal to that of a boy.
The young footballers in Cork and we are sure those throughout the island of Ireland refuse to accept this and implore the LGFA to engage with its membership and reverse this decision that has dashed the hopes and dreams of thousands of young girls nationwide.
LET OUR GIRLS PLAY.
On behalf of the Cork LGFA Executive