SADLY Saturday night is not the occasion all hoped it would be, but it still is a historic one.
For the first time ever the Cork ladies footballers and men’s side will play in a double-header, starting with the ladies against Tipp at 5pm, followed by Cork-Meath in Division 2.
The games were due to take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but because of works on the pitch, the games will now be played at Páirc Uí Rinn.
So the ladies will have to wait a while longer to play at the new stadium, most likely now it will be during the summer when they will be playing championship.
However, for both sides, all are delighted to see the football follow the example of camogie and stage double-headers.
Naturally, the hope is that the crowds watching the ladies game will be boosted above their normal numbers. For many attending their first ladies game will get a pleasant surprise at the level of skills on display.
No doubt there might be a few cries of ‘off the ground’ as some get used to the slightly different rules in ladies football. But what they will see is a fast-paced game with players that are every bit as skilful as their male counterparts.
Working behind the scenes, for some time, for days like this have been people like Des Cullinane and Cork county board chairperson, Tracey Kennedy who are both on the board’s strategic planning committee.
Part of the brief of that committee deals with better co-ordination between the three bodies, men, ladies football and camogie.
Tracey said: “It is brilliant that it is happening now and it’s a pity it hasn’t happened before this. I would hope that this would become the norm in time to come, but this has to start at national level.
“I would love to see the three fixtures bodies sitting down together at the start of the season to plan it so as this would be the best and most efficient way to do it.
“If that happened then days like tomorrow could be happening on far more occasions than they are now and I include camogie in that as well.
“I am looking forward to the occasion and hopefully Cork supporters will come out in their numbers to support both teams tomorrow night,” concluded Tracey.
Playing at Páirc Uí Rinn is not a new experience for the ladies as they have played there before, winning a Munster title at the venue at one stage in a win over near-neighbours Kerry. But being part of a double-header is a new experience and one they are looking forward to.
Manager Ephie Fitzgerald said they are looking forward to the game and hopes there will be a great atmosphere there tomorrow.
“It’s great that the ladies are getting the opportunity to play as a double-header with the men and it’s recognition they deserve,” said Ephie.
“It will help to raise the profile of the ladies game and I think that is very important for them going forward. I suppose at times they haven’t been treated as well as their male counter-parts and events like this, hopefully, will play a part in changing that.
“With regards to travel and expenses, they are not in the same league as the men and I think some sort of affiliation or amalgamation of the associations at a national level will help to sort this.
“I have to give great credit to the county board here in Cork who have been very accommodating to the ladies, not just on this occasion but on others as well. They have always recognised the success and efforts that the girls have put in over the years and have always supported them.
“For some of the great players that have been around, unfortunately, it didn’t happen in their time, but we can only look forward and hopefully there will be many more days like this in the future.
“I think for the ladies game it is the way it needs to be going forward and it can only be for the betterment of the sport, but as I said it has to start at national level,” concluded Ephie.
For Saturday's game, Ephie will welcome back Eimear Meaney to the squad, but will still be without Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan, who are due back to training next week.
He is also without the injured Saoirse Noonan and is hoping that all his players with come through colleges games during the week.
He was waiting until after them to pick his side for the clash with Tipperary, which throws-in at 5pm.
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