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Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald at Mallow GAA Grounds in Cork. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
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Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald at Mallow GAA Grounds in Cork. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
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Fitzgerald: I fear for my girls when inter-county football returns

CORK ladies football manager Ephie Fitzgerald has raised serious concerns about player welfare ahead of the return to training this week.

He has issues over a number of matters, ranging from dressingrooms, showers and hot food to the long distances players must travel for both games and training.

Fitzgerald also questioned the wisdom of a Munster club championship on the run-up to Cork’s All-Ireland group game against Kerry and Cavan.

And it seems the thorny topic of ladies football and camogie games clashing over the same weekends hasn’t been resolved either.

“We’re back training tomorrow in Cloughduv for the next few months,” Fitzgerald said.

“Dressingrooms may become available, but there won’t be any showers. That will be a help, but it won’t solve the problems.

“The girls would normally have hot food after training, but that’s not available as things stand now.” The inter-county scene returns, when the weather is set to change, wet, windy and cold which adds to the difficulties, according to the manager.

“We’re going into the winter and while there’s no denying the games worked out well for the clubs, in those situations you’re never more than half-an-hour from training or a match, maximum.

 Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald and captain Aisling Hutchings following their side's victory during the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 Round 3 match between Dublin and Cork at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald and captain Aisling Hutchings following their side's victory during the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 Round 3 match between Dublin and Cork at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

“Players could go home, shower and have something to eat, so there was no hardship in that.

“The average distance for our girls to Cloughduv is 75kms. We’ve two girls, Roisin Phelan and Niamh Cotter, in Dublin and two more, Aine Terry and Claire O’Shea, in Castletownbere.

“We’re scattered to the four winds, really. Take Hannah Looney from Aghada for example and the girls from Mourneabbey, who have to travel through the city and out the other side.

“We’d usually train twice a week and come together again at the weekend.” Fitzgerald is awaiting a response to his letter from the Ladies Gaelic Football Association outlining those concerns.

No venues have been announced yet for the Kerry and Cavan games which will probably need grounds with four or more dressingrooms.

“We don’t know the number of buses needed to travel either. It’s all about health and safety for the girls, whose welfare is uppermost in all of this.

“If you can’t car-pool, you could have inexperienced girls driving at night in winter.

“There’s also a cost factor involved because parents might have to drive or the girls are either in college or just starting work.

“Girls don’t get reimbursed for travelling unlike their male equivalent.” Cork will be represented by Mourneabbey, Clonakilty and Valley Rovers in the provincial club championships next month.

“There are three weekends set aside for that. Mourneabbey will be in the senior, through to the semi-final on October 11, having received a bye.

“Clon and Valleys will have three games each if successful in the intermediate and junior respectively. All the finals are on the 24th.

“There will be a minimum of 10 Cork players involved in those games and the inter-county is meant to resume on the first of November.

“We’re out first on the eight, which gives us only two weeks, but I wouldn’t expect players to have to choose between club and county. For me, it’s always club first.

“And on top of that we have camogie games clashing with ladies football.

“It could happen over three weekends if we reached the semi-final. That’s a terrible position to put girls in.” Country-wide a lot of players work on the front line in the fight against covid, doctors, nurses and teachers, and Fitzgerald reckons a lot of questions need answering before play can resume, stressing that Cork are committed to fulfilling their fixtures.

“The LGFA surveyed players and 90 per cent of them responded positively to playing. I’d say it would be closer to 100 per cent if things were right.

“We did our own survey and there’s been very mixed views. There are lots of questions.

“We’d all love to play, but not at the expense of the players’ health and safety. It’s the bottom line for me.

“My own personal opinion is that if there are risks then there should be no championship unless it’s safe to proceed,” Fitzgerald concluded.