Cork LGFA: We will drive young girls away from our sport

Backlash on Leeside as underage All-Ireland ladies football series called off
Cork LGFA: We will drive young girls away from our sport

 Eve Mullins of Cork in action against Shauna Boyle of Galway in the 2018 All-Ireland Ladies Football Minor A final. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

EARLIER this year the Ladies Gaelic Football Association made the decision not to run All-Ireland championships at underage level.

Traditionally there have been All-Ireland campaigns at U14, U16 and U18, with Cork enjoying considerable success in them. While the provincial competitions have been sanctioned by the Association, there won't be All-Ireland series after.

In recent weeks a member of the Cork minor squad, Grace Murphy, made an appeal to the LGFA to reconsider their decision.

Cork LGFA have come out strongly in support of their underage sides and like Grace and all involved want the competitions reinstated.

In her appeal, Grace said: "I was a player on the Cork minor ladies football team last year and am currently undergoing trials and hoping to remain on the panel this year. 

I can’t wait to get back training and playing matches however, my excitement is slightly dampened by the devastating news that there will be no All-Ireland campaign for any female underage county teams this year, due to a decision made by the LGFA. 

"Not only is this decision a huge insult to any female underage county players, management or trainers that were hoping to compete and reach their full potential at the highest level this year, it’s a critical blow to the younger generation of ladies football as it implies that we are simply not important enough.

"I really feel very passionate about this issue and am certain that if we can come together we can make a change that will really be a huge boost for ladies football as a whole.

"I, and the management of the Cork ladies minor football team, decided it would be best to try and spread the word in regards to our disappointment, as it will hopefully draw attention to the issue.

"I created a petition for players and supporters alike to sign if they could, to draw even more attention to the issue."

CORK LGFA STATEMENT

Following on from this the Cork LGFA have released a statement on their website in support of championships for underage sides:

"We, the Cork LGFA Executive Committee wish to voice our total dismay at the LGFA’s decision to refuse to hold underage All-Irelands at U14, U16 and U18 for the coming season.

"On the back of what has been an incredibly difficult time for all young people nationally, instilling a sense of hope and the promise of a brighter day was the only thing that kept many young people’s spirits up, the LGFA has offered a crushing blow to the dreams of young girls across the country.

"In a week where we should be rejoicing on the news that ladies football will receive, equal government funding, increased television coverage of our games, increased access to GAA county stadia to showcase these games and mileage expenses for our players, we are still left to fight discrimination not from outside but most alarmingly from within our own association.

"The reasoning that the LGFA cite for not conducting these competitions have absolutely no credibility.

Exams: 

"Firstly, the exams only affect minors in 2021 so these do not affect the U14 or U16 age group. Boys also sit the Leaving Cert and the GAA are holding their All-Ireland. Are we saying a girl is less equipped to handle both? What message is this sending to our girls?"

Club v County: 

"Underage inter-county has always run in tandem with club games and a way to co-exist has always been found. Accepted this year is a shortened one, but not so much so that it cannot be done if the will exists."

Underage girls playing adult or being away in college: 

"Again, this does not affect the U14 age group and only a small number of U16 players would be affected. With the timeline that the LGFA has given provincial boards to complete its programme of games, the underage inter-county season would be completed prior to the commencement of the adult club championships and the opening of third-level institutions, therefore the point is completely redundant."

Parents/players don’t want it: 

"The LGFA quotes anecdotal evidence that parents are reluctant to allow their daughters to return to inter-county football. 

We challenge the LGFA to show any evidence of this. 

If the feedback we have received from parents, players, coaches is anything to go by these groups are devastated by its cancellation.

In fact, petitions are springing up countywide by young girls to reinstate these games.  One has been set up by a Cork minor which we have happily signed and shared with our clubs to do likewise.

We call on The LGFA to poll its county boards, county managers and its members in general, (none of whom were consulted before this decision was taken) and see what they want.

Other sporting bodies who faced criticism lately due to unpopular decisions did just this and democracy won out as it should."

Fiona Keating of Cork scores her side's second goal in the 2019 minor final. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Fiona Keating of Cork scores her side's second goal in the 2019 minor final. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Public health and safety: 

"Nphet, the government and all relevant health agencies have deemed the return to play for underage inter-county to be appropriate, all other sporting bodies including the GAA, and camogie have embraced this stance but the LGFA seem to think differently.

Are our girls more fragile, more susceptible, less equipped to deal with things than their brothers and sisters playing other sports are?

What message are we sending out..? You are less, you are weaker. We will drive young girls away from our sport. How quickly we forget the message of 20x20.

Already 75 girls in Cork alone have pulled out of trials at U16 and U18 since this announcement, Coincidence? Unlikely."

This is an extremely strong statement by the Cork LGFA in support of their underage sides and they are part of a campaign country-wide to try and get these competitions reinstated.

At present, the LGFA have no plans to do so, but maybe the outcry from players and managers etc, just like the camogie, might see a change of heart on this matter.

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