Dual gems of camogie and ladies football should be cherished not squeezed out

Dual gems of camogie and ladies football should be cherished not squeezed out

JEWEL: Brilliant teenager Fiona Keating has shone for Cork underage and won counties with Courcey Rovers and West Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

ONE of the byproducts of Cork’s dominance of the women’s game in the modern era is the dual icons it produced.

Make no mistake about it, if Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery weren’t so ridiculously talented in both codes, they wouldn’t be as popular or well-known. Were they better for Cork with the hurley in their grasp or an O’Neill’s? It didn’t matter, they ripped it up at Croke Park either way.

Rena and Briege — as genuine Leeside legends they’re identifiable without using their full names — grew in stature as dual inter-county players were squeezed out in the GAA. 

Briege Corkery turns Bernie Breen. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22
Briege Corkery turns Bernie Breen. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

Eoin Cadogan, Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane all gave it a fair rattle, but even with underage teams, operating as a hurler and footballer is discouraged now.

That’s an important backdrop to the current controversy surrounding camogie and ladies football fixtures next month. While we criticise both associations for their failure to accommodate dual players, especially as Cork have five crossing both squads, Hannah Looney, Libby Coppinger, Meabh Cahalane, Fiona Keating and Ciara McCarthy, the GAA has wiped out the male equivalent.

Still, it wouldn’t have been that hard to liaise during lockdown before the winter schedule was revealed to ensure matches were on separate days. Cork are down to All-Ireland championship group games in camogie and ladies football on November 7, though All-Ireland champions Galway made a classy gesture to move.

The All-Ireland camogie quarter-final is fixed for November 14, same as Cork’s All-Ireland ladies football championship group fixture against Cavan. The All-Ireland semi-finals are on the weekend of November 28-29, though that allows scope for a Saturday and Sunday schedule if Cork reach that stage in both.

The Irish Examiner reported the Rebel dual players were considering boycotting games that end up on the same day. You couldn’t blame them.

Particularly after the Camogie Congress last weekend. A Dublin motion, rejected by 76%, sought to write in rule that the association “recognises and supports the concept of a Dual Player, as defined, and will encourage all of its Units to support and facilitate its playing members of all ages, who wish to do so, to play both Camogie and Ladies Gaelic Football”.

The LGFA shot down a motion designed to facilitate and support dual players earlier this year. Basically, the excuse on both occasions was the wording put the onus on them to concede ground to the other.

That’s really it parsed down though. The ruling bodies of both sports are pitched as rivals for the best young female players.

You’ve separate committees in the majority of clubs in Cork and beyond for ladies football and camogie. There are distinct training slots from U6 up and really it’s unworkable.

We’re not naive enough to suggest that GAA clubs don’t have conflicts between the hurling and football sides. And many simply prioritise one over the other. The deferred senior football final between Nemo Rangers and Castlehaven reflects that.

Libby Coppinger called for a merger of the two associations last week.

Libby Coppinger is tackled by Emma Cronin of Tipperary. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Libby Coppinger is tackled by Emma Cronin of Tipperary. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

“I think we should be the one association and be promoting camogie and ladies football together.

“One association should be the case for years. It is not a new thing. I don’t know why, when they were doing the fixtures and knew they were working with such a short period of time, they didn’t just pick up the phone to say, ‘this is what we are doing, we are open to working around you if you work around us’.

“If the dual player has to go, it should be because the standard has gotten too high or you can’t commit to both, not because they are not facilitating it.”

Take Fiona Keating. What an incredible talent the teenager is.

An All-Ireland minor winner in both, Keating was the Player of the Match as Courcey Rovers landed the senior camogie crown last month, having already contributed to West Cork making the breakthrough in ladies football.

Keating is only 19 but has the potential to become a force at national level. If she’s allowed to.

Mourneabbey's Ciara O'Sullivan takes on West Cork's Fiona Keating. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Mourneabbey's Ciara O'Sullivan takes on West Cork's Fiona Keating. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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