WE would assume that, by this stage, Cork camogie and ladies’ football player Libby Coppinger dread seeing our name pop up on her phone.
It’s important to point out that there is no nagging on our part, but generally it’s because we’re looking to speak to her in relation to the latest dual-player issue, with the St Colum’s player in the unwanted position of being caught in a fixture-clash.
To be fair to the two Cork managers, camogie boss Paudie Murray and ladies’ football chief Ephie Fitzgerald, any issues tend to be resolved in a constructive manner but it’s grossly unfair on Coppinger to be effectively punished for her talent. Each time, though, we finish with the hope that lessons can be learned and that this really will be the last time – except it never seems to be.
On Saturday, the annual ladies’ football Congress took place and one of the motions, proposed by Dublin’s John Sheridan, was worded thusly: “The Ladies’ Gaelic Football 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 ladies’ Gaelic football and camogie.”
A worthy aspiration, one would think, but for some reason the motion was defeated, with Ladies’ Football administrative figures pointing to the specific wording as the main reason and saying that there was no problem in terms of co-operation with the Camogie Association.
In terms of optics, it looks terrible and the timing is unfortunate too, given that Sunday was International Women’s Day (to save the risible question of, ‘But when is International Men’s Day?’ it’s Thursday, November 19).
It’s a sad fact that, outside of match reports, camogie and ladies’ football tend to feature more in the mainstream media when there is an incident like this – and they happen a lot more than any of us would like.
The underlying problem in all of this is the fact that there are two separate governing bodies for the two women’s codes. While the GAA get a lot of things wrong, it is at least theoretically possible for a male dual player to serve two masters, even if the demands are probably too much nowadays.
During the presidency of Liam O’Neill, there was much talk about everything coming under the one umbrella – if you were starting men’s and women’s football and men’s and women’s hurling nowadays, that is how you’d organise things. In January of last year, the first moves were made towards that with the addition of camogie and ladies’ football representatives on the GAA management committee and Central Council but things always tend to move slowly where these things are concerned.
We hope and pray that the likes of Libby Coppinger and Hannah Looney aren’t caught in a tug-of-codes this year, but history has taught us to be wary.
Another interesting development from the Congress was the decision to approve a change whereby a 45 kicked over the bar from the ground will be worth two points.
In a sense, we can appreciate why it is happening – without wishing to sound sexist, different male and female physiology means it happens less in ladies’ football and so there is a premium attached. However, consider the goalkeeper who makes a wonderful save, pushing a goal-bound shot around the post only to see her work almost fully undone as the 45 is scored. Still, it’s worth experimenting with.
On the pitch, Cork can secure a return to Division 2 of the Allianz FL as long as they avoid defeat at home to Louth on Sunday and, given that the Wee County are as good as relegated, one would imagine that Ronan McCarthy’s side will complete the job.
It is important in that it slightly relieves the pressure to beat Kerry in the Munster SFC in May, as Cork’s place in the top tier would be safe. Even without that, though, it shows that the momentum of last year has been harnessed and the curve is pointing upwards.
And that hasn’t always been the case with Cork football in recent year.