CATHERINE McGOURTY: Integration must come sooner rather than later

THE sooner that the integration of the LGFA and Camogie Associations with the GAA takes place the better.

As a female player and coach over the past 10 years, I have heard of numerous occasions where camogs and ladies footballers have had to choose between a camogie championship game and football championship game just because they are a dual player.

On the other hand, how often has this happened with our male counterparts? We see the like of Con O’Callaghan of Cuala representing his club in both the Dublin Hurling and Football Championships.

Closer to home, Sleacht Néill continue to successfully play at the top level in Derry in hurling and football with codes alternating weeks to ensure that players do not have to choose.

Having one association, with sub committees at national, provincial and county level for fixtures, should help to streamline fixtures and so protect the dual player.

My fear is that if this does not happen soon players could stop playing either camogie or ladies football and this will halt the development of each code. Players will begin to choose one sport and standards will start to slip.

DUAL STAR…Players like Karl McKaigue never have to chose between club football and hurling on the same weekend

We witnessed this in the middle of September where the girls from Eoghan Rua, Coleraine were expected to play a camogie quarter-final at 5pm on a Saturday and then play in the Derry Intermediate Ladies Football final at 3pm the next day. The club had 10 dual players and this is surely not looking out for player welfare.

In addition, we have other issues in relation to fixtures – just look at the recent Steelstown LGFA saga. On October 16 they played Glenravel at home in the preliminary round of the Ulster Intermediate Championship.

Their quarter-final against Aodh Ruadh was then fixed for October 23 in Ballyshannon but called off due to inclement weather. This game was then refixed and played the following Sunday, October 30. After winning the game they were expected to play three days later in south Cavan more than three hours away.

Now, I am well aware, that there are two sides to this story, and was there a possibility that the previous re-fixture could have been played earlier? But regardless of this, it is completely crazy to ask anyone who plays in an amateur sport to travel mid-week over three hours each way to play in an Ulster semi-final. The other issue is the fact that this was an Ulster semi-final. Why was the game not played at a neutral venue halfway between the two teams? Especially when the distance is surely too much to ask of amateur players.

I do understand that the Ulster LGFA had a tough decision to make about the situation. It was documented that Steelstown were aware that the game could possibly have been played on a 3G pitch and really players should have been prepared for this. However, what I think was very disappointing, was watching on social media the opposition taking the field, scoring and laughing about the whole situation.

I know that this is a rule, and a team should line out, but it is certainly not the way I would like to reach an Ulster final. I also wonder what would have happened if the opposition had made a mistake and put the ball wide. With no goalkeeper to kick the ball out would that have left the score at 0-0 to 0-0? Would that have resulted in a replay and another re-fixture and more chaos?

As a female player, it is great to see our male counterparts promoting equality for our games with the GPA continually promoting integration and lead players such as Conor Meyler speaking out in support of the women’s games.

We are of course making progress, but I hope that the pace picks up and we see integration sooner rather than later.

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