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Does The New Attendance Record Really Signal Progression In Ladies GAA?

Does The New Attendance Record Really Signal Progression In Ladies GAA?
By Sinead Farrell
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They issued the challenge, campaigned for support and yesterday, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association achieved their goal. The 31,000 spectators who poured into Croke Park yesterday made the Ladies All-Ireland triple header the highest attended female sports event in Europe for 2015.

The official figure was 31,083 which represents an increase of some 4,000 people who attended last year's finals, and crucially, it just about shades the 2015 Women's FA Cup final in terms of bums on seats.

But while those statistics scream positivity on the surface, there are still a litany of issues that need to be addressed before Ladies GAA can enjoy some real progression. It's reasonable to use the Ladies All-Ireland finals as a starting point to boost spectator numbers, but will these numbers filter down to grassroots level? Will we see throngs of people walking through the turnstiles at county finals to cheer on their local clubs?

Irrespective of the number of people who turned out for the games yesterday, complete recognition is still a long way down the track. Seasoned Mayo footballer Cora Staunton highlighted this issue on Newsalk's Off The Ball recently.

You don't want to be upsetting any applecarts when you're still playing but there are things that need to be changed. The media could be better. We're putting in five days a week in peak season. We drive to training without expenses and pay for our own food

That makes it hard to entice younger girls to play because sometimes they have to choose between a part-time job at the weekend to keep them going or play football. People have to live their lives as well


Fixture farces are another area of weakness in Ladies GAA. Twice this year, a few Cork players were asked to fulfil camogie and football fixtures within hours of each other. The first occurred in May when the League football final and the Camogie Munster final were scheduled on the same day although Rena Buckley and Breige Corkery lined out for the footballers only on that day.


It happened again in July when a Camogie Championship match was played on the same day as the Munster football final. On this occasion they did play because the venues were within a reasonable distance. The players were incensed and grievances were expressed but the arrangement proceeded despite the physical burden inflicted on players.

Opportunities to stage double haeaders with men's GAA matches went unclaimed again this year. Dublin ladies were due to play Armagh in the Ladies All-Ireland semi-final on the same day that the Dublin men were playing Mayo in the semi-final replay. This presented an ideal opportunity to organise an impromptu double header in Croke Park. But alas, the dream came to a crushing halt.

A request to precede the men's game with the women's senior and intermediate fixtures was rejected on account of the Hurling All-Ireland taking place the next day. And again, the outrage from both sides of the women's game was deafening.

Access to facilities, gear and fundraising are ongoing problems for in Ladies GAA. Several inter-county teams have no base to train and a rush of last minute phone calls are often required to obtain a pitch. And the quality of the dressing rooms provided are often in dilapidated conditions.


So while we celebrate yesterday's attendance record, let's not forget that more work needs to be done.

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