Oh Mary these fixtures are an absolute farce

During my long stint as PRO/Assistant PRO of our club, during the summer months in particular, it wouldn’t be unusual for myself and da to be at 10, 11 or a dozen matches in a week. Not that anything was ever thought of it because it was very much a labour of love and never a chore.

For himself as much as me I think because for him it revived the tradition of our family’s involvement with the club which dated back to his brother Jimmy who was Treasurer of our club for 33 years.

Now factor in that I was also involved in the management of a couple teams as well and it gives you some indication of what went into it. However, being involved with the two teams in qutestion was very useful as it presented the opportunity to bring some of the best young footballers in the club through for their first taste of adult fare.

The only drawback to the overlap was this – that the better young players were often engaged with 5, 6 or 7 teams throughout the season. And, if they happened to be dual players, Lord only knows what the final tally would be.

Yet more often than not, the system the club had in place ensured that teams and players alike got fair play. Therefore, very seldom were players overworked. In fact, I would venture there was only a handful of occasions on which lads may have played a Minor game in the morning and then with one of the adult teams after lunch.

But it was very much the exception rather than the rule. I’m sure the camogie players and lady footballers wish it was that way for them rather than the other way around. The farcical chaos which continues to engulf the fixture situation for the players of the two latter-named codes are botb unfathomable and plainly unacceptable.

This may come across as patronising but is absolutely not meant as such, however, it is unfortunately a statement of fact that it simply wouldn’t happen if it were male players involved.

Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese

Some time ago, it was announced that former President Mary McAleese would chair talks about and/or a process of integration between the GAA, LGFA and the Camogie Association. In some ways, the latter have come on in leaps and bounds in the not too distant past. Remember, its not all that long ago camogie was played 13-a-side on shortened pitches.

Thankfully, that nonsense was done away with a good while ago at this stage, but the insulting manner in which fixtures are currently being (mis) managed by either the CA, LGFA or both, has to be, one would earnestly hope, a central tenet of whatever process Mrs McAleese and others are engaged in.

Meath Camogie All Star Aoife Minogue

What are reading has come about because of the unacceptable and degrading situation Meath – and dual players Aoife Minogue and Megan Thynne in particular – found themselves last weekend.

Basically, the players were forced to decide between the camogie and the football. In any event, Aoife went with the camogie team who were taking on Kerry, while Megan lined out in the football match against Kerry. In the end, disappointment was the lot of both teams.

Of course, that may well have ended up being the case anyway, but surely dual players – and teams in general – deserve better governance from those running their respective sports. It’s not as if they haven’t had ample opportunity to experiment with and put something better in place long before now.

After all, it was hardly possible that at some point in the extraordinary, glory-laden careers enjoyed by Cork’s Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery that a conundrum similar to that which befell the Meath players last weekend didn’t crop up at least once.

Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery on one of their many glorious days in Croke Park

The thing is, with the greatest of due respect, Cork teams in their pomp could’ve easily obsorbed the loss of one or both of their dynamic duo, given the calibre of player managers Kevin Murray and the late Eamonn Ryan had at their disposal in both codes.

In contrast, both Meath teams in question are going through periods of transition and the last thing a team needs in such a situation is upheaval. On the football side, Davy Nelson is already operating without Emma Troy, Orlagh Lally, Aoibheann Leahy, Vikki Wall, Emma Duggan and Kelsey Nesbitt – that I can think of, there may be more.

Granted, a number of them will most likely rejoin the panel at some point, but that’s of no use to the Navan O’Mahonys clubman in the here and now. Of course, that, in turn, raises another old chestnut of mine – why the GAA as a whole aren’t doing more to encourage players to stay at home but that’s an entirely different issue.

As bad as the likes of Orlagh Lally and Vikki Wall and Emma Troy going abroad has been for the lady footballers, the camogie team have been dealt even greater blows with the retirements of Jane Dolan of Blackhall Gaels and Dunboyne’s Sinead Hackett.

Sinead Hackett – like her brother Neil – gave outstanding service to Meath

All of which accentuates the disgraceful idiocy of making players like Minogue and Thynne make completely unfair decisions. Doubtless, there will be a cohort who will be straining to pipe up with their pessimistic view that, like romantic Ireland, the days of the dual player are dead and gone.

Balderdash. Buckley and Corkery are living proof that it can be made work. All it takes is the will to do so and a bit of common sense. The only problem being that the last named commodity very seldom lives up to its name. Though hopefully the Star Of The County Down can help in on its way.

FOGRA: On my own behalf and, I’m sure, that of all Gaels in Dunboyne and Meath, warmest best wishes to Sinead Hackett on the occasion of her retirement from Inter County Camogie. For as long as I have been involved with or around our club, the sight of Sinead, Neil and their dad Jim with hurl and sliotar in hand has become a staple part of our identity. Hopefully brother and sister will continue to lead from the front for a long time to come, on and off the pitch.

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