The Cork ladies footballers took the same stand in 2003 as the Irish women's soccer team did this week

The Cork ladies footballers took the same stand in 2003 as the Irish women's soccer team did this week

Stephanie Roche, Áine O’Gorman and Emma Byrne with members of the Irish soccer team, who this week improved their conditions with the FAI. Fourteen years ago, almost to the day, Cork ladies footballers took a similar stand. 

The Mary White GAA column

IN a week that's been dominated by the Irish senior women's soccer team speaking up, you couldn't help but feel like history was repeating itself when it came to Cork ladies football.

The stories are different, yet similar, and the thing is, unless you were a player involved in the Cork senior or junior team 14 years ago, you wouldn't have been aware of what was being done behind the scenes by just a handful of players to try and get better 'conditions'.

Even other players weren't aware of it. They signed the letter not really knowing the extent to which change was coming.

Almost to the day, March 31, 2003, a total of 44 junior and senior intercounty ladies footballers signed their names in favour of a letter being sent to the County Board that had in it criteria they wanted put in place to improve conditions.

But it wasn't even about conditions, it was about getting the simple, the very simple, things right.

The letter, addressed to the then chairman Steven Lynch, had a number of points which players wanted introduced, and to hold a meeting to discuss the points with the board and members of the senior and junior county team managements.

The points were the follows:

* Senior and junior squads o be finalised 4-6 weeks before the first Munster championship game (A given, you'd think).

* Senior and junior players to be notified formerly if they had made the squad or not (Another given, you'd think).

* Obligatory for players to attend 80% of training sessions from the date of the finalised squad before they can play a championship match (Eh, yeah, that's just four weeks' training).

* A training weekend away for the finalised squad (One would think that would have been a given).

* Squads to travel to matches by bus for all championship games (Another obvious given you'd assume).

* Two selectors to be present at all training sessions, practice matches etc (Sure how else would they pick the team?!) 

* A female Representative to be present with each team at all times (An absolute given the Code of Ethics).

The senior Irish women's team mentioned that they had to share tracksuits... well, in and around 2003, there was no tracksuit or uniform for Cork teams. It was mix 'n' match, a pick 'n' mix scenario. But, the board involved at the time, to their credit, understood that the players wanted a more professional setup. And, when I say professional, it's not really as such, because it was again about getting the simple things right.

The board agreed to kitting out all the Cork ladies football teams in 2004 with O'Neill's-branded tracksuit tops, pants, t-shirt, shorts and socks, and they overhauled the Cork jersey too to the new, 'fancy' lightweight jerseys at the time, as opposed to those old, heavy and huge ones there once was. The look made the players feel part of something. It gave them a sense of being, a sense of ownership, a sense of pride.

Players who played their part, the likes of Donoughmore's Louise Murphy and Beara's Susan Power, and county board representatives like Stephen Lynch, Sharon O'Keeffe, Mary Power, Ger Walsh, Liz Ahern and Dan Buckley, cannot be forgotten. Because up until now, their input has been forgotten, that is until the Irish senior women's soccer team spoke up this week.

So, there were a lot of similarities to the story of the senior Irish women's soccer team and where Cork ladies football was not far off a decade ago. And, that's why young players today, who feel they deserve 'respect' for being on a Cork team, should think again. They need to realise where Cork ladies football came from, and the work others put in to pave the way so that they can wear that jersey with pride, feel part of something special, sit on a bus with their teammates on a way to a championship match, or bond together on a training weekend away...

They're simple things, but they weren't always simple.

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