OUTGOING Chairperson of the Cork County Board, Tracey Kennedy, criticised the lack of women in the GAA in her address to the annual convention on Thursday night.
The Killeagh clubwoman finished nine years as a board officer, having been PRO and Vice-Chair, though she remains as Central Council delegate.
“The GAA as an association leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to gender balance,” Kennedy told convention, which this year was held remotely because of Covid restrictions.
“It is a matter of regret to me that while I was immensely proud to be the first female officer of this board, I now leave it with no women coming behind me.
“We talk a lot about integration. There’s much discussion at the moment about the necessity for our men’s and women’s games to be run by one national body, which I firmly believe is the case.
“The easy answer is to say that we are a body that runs men’s games, but that’s only part of the story.
“Women’s attendance at our games is growing constantly. There are many women involved in various roles at club level, and even if there weren’t, various economic studies have shown that organisations with greater gender balance are more successful.
“As clubs and as a county, we need to look at what we can do to encourage more women to take on leadership roles.
“Women are often slower to put themselves forward than men are, and may need to be convinced that they have the skills for a particular role, and they are still also the primary caregivers in many families,” Kennedy added.
In a wide-ranging address, touching on a variety of topics, she mentioned Covid and Cork’s continuing wait for the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire Cups to find a home on Leeside.
“As I leave office I’ve two further regrets, the degree to which Covid-19 impacted our plans for a financial turnaround this year and our continuing wait for an All-Ireland senior title.
“However, progress has been made on our finances, with a significant decrease in the County Board’s operating loss this year, and I am certain that, without Covid, we would have returned to profitability.
“On the field of play, we saw some green shoots of hope with our defeat of Kerry in senior football and our speedy promotion from Division 3 of the national football league.
“Our U20 hurlers produced a gutsy performance against Limerick to qualify for the Munster final next Wednesday, and I wish them well in that game.
“Most significantly for both areas, however, 2020 saw the formation and launch of, a most exciting new departure amalgamating all of the existing organisations working to further Gaelic Games across the county.
“Another highlight of the year for us all was the success of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch.
“Our stadium is now almost where it needs to be. There are some infrastructural adjustments planned to get it to that level, of which you’ll be hearing more in due course.”
The outgoing chair also stressed the need for structural change in the way GAA is run in Cork.
“Another area where I had hoped to effect change but did not manage to do so during my term was in terms of our organisational structure as a county.
“While our divisions have done sterling work over many years, they were established at a very different time and to serve a very different purpose.
“I feel that we really need to bite the bullet, put our personal feelings to one side and carry out a full review of how we function as a county all the way from juvenile up to adult level.
“I do not feel that 100-year-old structures serve our county as they once did, and if we want to achieve at the highest level, such a review will be necessary.”