AS the status and popularity of women’s sport continues to rise globally, you can be sure that the next drop of controversy is never too far into the future.
Women’s sport in Ireland particularly seems to enjoy a good whack of “what the hell” every so often and this time it was dished up from the Lily White Camogie players of County Kildare.
The players published an open letter addressing their concerns when they were pulled from the All-Ireland Camogie Championship without their knowledge by their County Board.
The letter points to a few previous issues raised by the players with the board which had led to this blow-up. It seems the board were fed up with the players’ outrageous demands and said “enough is enough!”
What were the outrageous demands? Equal pay? Cars? Sponsorship? Cryotherapy? Hot meals after training?
There were two requests. Firstly, players wanted to play with their clubs during the off-season from inter-county camogie. Secondly, they wanted access to showers and dressing rooms after training.
It’s not the first time I’ve come across either issue.
In rugby, there has been hardship around showers at times. The most memorable shower I had in my rugby career was after we played Wales in Dublin in the 2020 6 Nations Championship when we ground out a win in possibly the worst conditions I’ve ever played in.
Hail coming in sideways and you could barely open your eyes. I remember hearing the referee ask over her mic if there was any concern for player safety, clearly desperate to call it a day and head to the sheds.
The hot shower afterwards was glorious. When I sat down for the post-match meal I asked one of the Welsh management team how come the Welsh girls were wearing their tracksuits and not their normal post-match attire.
“The showers were cold. We have to go straight to the airport so we told them to dress as warmly as possible.”
I could have cried for them.
Likewise, the battle with coaches who would prefer for their players to only play for their representative team and not their club team is not unfamiliar.
Of course, the season has to be managed appropriately and management, including medical staff, will often take the decision out of players’ hands to minimise risk of injury or burnout. But when adult women are inviting a discussion on the possibility of playing these games, maybe it’s time to listen to the players and reassess this decision in a fair and democratic manner.
So we can’t undermine that link. If a club has done a good job in developing their players to be good enough to be selected for their county, why should they be punished by then giving up all those players when it comes to game time?
In addition to this, players need to play. The skills, drills, game scenarios, conditioning and other specific areas of focus in training are all very worthwhile and important. But real game time cannot be substituted. Having played for a number of years in the English Premiership I was able to see firsthand the benefits of club and representative side working hand in hand. The RFU have designed their own league to facilitate the demands of their own full-time, contracted players.
The English players get to play week-in, week-out in highly competitive games with and against the best players on the English team as well as other international players and all the other girls who are fighting to get into those jerseys. Each club has the responsibility of providing what those contracted players will need from physio and medical support to fitness and technical coaching.
So why doesn’t the English team just take the easier option and provide all of this support from their own staff, on-site, with the players under their noses?
They are full time after all. It’s because the value is in playing. Playing with your club.
Good practices that are not rocket science, and let’s be honest, playing for your club when you are available is the bare minimum of requests.
The decision by the Kildare Camogie players to write and openly share this letter is one that I’m sure was not taken lightly.
It’s a scary process and a waiting game to see what the response will be.
The response has been very heavily in support of the girls with many social media users taking the opportunity to share their own stories of a similar nature.
If everyone in women’s sport wrote up their woes this paper would be full.