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Kerry Star Annoyed By Lack Of Access To County's Centre Of Excellence

19 May 2022; PwC GPA Player of the Month for March in ladies football, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh of Kerry with her award today at PwC's Cork offices. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

By PJ Browne Updated

There are four photos on the front wall of Kerry GAA's Centre of Excellence near the village of Currans. Footballers Maurice Fitzgerald and Seanie O'Shea are flanked by hurler Shane Conway to the right, and ladies footballer Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh to the left.

Her photo being there is a source of annoyance for Ní Mhuircheartaigh. It gives the impression that it is a facility for both men and women, but the Kerry ladies football team are currently not able to train there. Like many female inter-county Gaelic games teams, Kerry's existence has been nomadic. For the moment, they've set up camp at MTU Kerry - what was previously known as IT Tralee - where they train three nights a week.

"We have been in Currans maybe once or twice since, but we don’t know what’s the story. We were there every session really [last year], especially come championship we were there," Ní Mhuircheartaigh said on Thursday after being named PwC GPA Women’s Player of the Month in football for March.

"It’s annoying, especially when they have four photos on the front of it, and I’m one of them, but we are not allowed in there. It is a bit annoying, and you are wondering what’s the difference. I don’t know but I’ll probably get in trouble for talking about this.

"The IT have been excellent to us and few club grounds were very good to us leading up to the [Division 2] league final."

In a statement released to Balls, Kerry GAA said that it "has been in discussions with the Kerry LGFA in relation to their use of the Centre of Excellence facilities in Currans and the future development of one of the two undeveloped pitches in the complex for specific use by the Kerry LGFA and Kerry Camogie.

"The Kerry LGFA have been accommodated with training facilities at the Centre of Excellence over the past number of years and this will continue to be the case.

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"We look forward to working in close collaboration with Kerry LGFA to bring our collective future development plans to fruition."

19 May 2022; PwC GPA Players of the Month for March in camogie, Róisín McCormick of Antrim, right, and in ladies football, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh of Kerry, left, alongside PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month for March Stephen Bennett of Waterford, with their awards today at PwC's Cork offices. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

For Ní Mhuircheartaigh, the day when the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association merge, and men and women can stand together under the same roof - literally and figuratively - can't come soon enough.

"That’s what every single ladies footballer wants," she says, "to be merging with the GAA and working hand in hand and working together and be 100 per cent treated the same and equally.

"That’s what we want and what everyone wants. Even the male players, that’s what they want too because they see we do the exact same training as they do and [put in] the same commitment and spend the same amount of time training."

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This is Ní Mhuircheartaigh's 15th season with the Kerry senior team, and one where it feels they're on a roll. Last month, they had a thrilling National League Division 2 final victory over Armagh.

The Kingdom were four points down with 20 minutes to play, but Danielle O'Leary produced one of the great Croke Park substitute appearances, scoring 1-2 and turning the game in Kerry's favour. For a team which had lost two Division Two finals in the previous three years, it was a big moment. Later this month, in a double-header with the men's Munster final, Kerry will face Cork in their own provincial decider.

"It was tough losing in 2019 and then Covid stopped us in our tracks in 2020," says Ní Mhuircheartaigh,

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"Last year then, losing out to Meath in Croke Park, it was tough. That day in Croke Park on April 10 was special. It really drove us on then and everyone just wanted to go back training straight away. It's exactly what we needed and the confidence has been growing since.

"There were a few years there where it was very hard to go training and things weren't working out our way, but under the management (Darragh Long and Declan Quill) we have come together as one.

"The belief they have in us in unbelievable, the professionalism they have brought in just second to none. The bond the team have is very, very special."

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Kerry GAA Centre of Excellence. Picture credit: Kerry GAA/Facebook

Ní Mhuircheartaigh says those 15 years have been "a bit of a roller coaster", though she "wouldn’t change it for the world".

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"Things have changed massively," says the West Kerry player.

"We were losing a lot of players back years ago, we were finding it very hard to get pitches, food wasn't a thing after training.

"Even though it’s hard to get into Currans, I think clubs are giving us more use of their facilities. The IT are very good to us. We’re getting food after sessions. The professionalism has gone sky high - it’s unbelievable. There’s more S&C work done now and it really is a professional set-up. It’s just wonderful to be involved in.

"You live, eat and breathe football. I suppose we always did. But going back to the first season in 2008, laps were a thing, band work - we hadn’t a clue what band work was. Gym sessions were a thing but then they kind of stopped again.

"Since then we’ve got proper strength and conditioning trainers in, and it’s just grown completely in Ireland. It’s a must now and gym sessions are a must in October and November and all through the season. Training has just hit another level completely.

"[Cassandra Buckley], our strength and conditioning trainer this year, and who has been our strength and conditioning trainer for the past three years, is just unreal."

It would be easy for Ní Mhuircheartaigh to feel jealous of the young players coming through now, but that's not the case.

"It’s great for the young girls who are just starting off and knowing that it’s going in the right direction," she says.

"But I’m just happy and excited for them as well that it is going in the right direction and that they will be treated equally in the years to come.

"Even with the young girls in school that I train myself, I know that it’s going in the right direction. I’m excited for them because I feel that the drop out rate is getting lower and lower every year now as well. Look, that’s the aim of it as well - to get girls involved and keep them involved. It’s exciting and it’s brilliant."

See Also: Elite Male GAA Player Coming Out As Gay Would Be 'Progressive' Move

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