Updated Dec 15th 2020, 3:00 PM

CORK LADIES FOOTBALL captain Doireann O’Sullivan has hailed last night’s monumental vote to merge the Women’s Gaelic Players Association [WGPA] and its male equivalent in the GPA.

“I think it’s a huge step forward for us. I can only see positives coming from it,” the All-Star forward told the media this morning ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Dublin. 

O’Sullivan sees the merger into a single 4,000-member representative for inter-county players as a significant step towards equity, and believes it might pave the way for amalgamation at a higher level.

Calls for the Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] and Camogie Association to come under the GAA’s umbrella have heightened of late in the wake of the debacle surrounding the late venue change for the All-Ireland ladies football semi-final between Cork and Galway.

And while O’Sullivan has spoken out about this before, she feels that last night’s vote was a huge step in the right direction.

“The first half-an-hour of the Zoom call consisted of the WGPA reps and inter-county players,” she explained, “there was a powerpoint presentation discussing and outlining what it would entail; the pros and cons of amalgamating.

“Then the second half of the Zoom call, we joined with the GPA and it was a unanimous vote. I think 96% of the WGPA voted for it and 100% of the GPA voted for the two joining.”

The Mournabbey sharpshooter delved deeper into the potential improvements the merger may deliver for female inter-county players.

  • ‘We should ask the question if there’s more that can be done’ – calls for travel expenses for ladies players

“One of the topics discussed was travel expenses. That’s a huge thing between men and women’s football at the moment. We have three girls travelling from Beara, we have two girls travelling from Dublin three nights a week to come down training. So they don’t get their travel expenses covered.

That was the big topic, that if we were all under the same umbrella we’d all have to be treated as one. I think that is the big one. I don’t think anybody should be out of pocket for representing their county.

“Obviously we are not looking to get paid, but just to get covered for the travel and the mileage the girls are clocking up.”

O’Sullivan and Eimear Meaney celebrating after the All-Ireland semi-final.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

On the possibility of an amalgamation with the GAA in the future, she continued: “I think that would be exciting. I think as well as pitch availability, the thought of double headers would be really exciting.

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“We’ve done it twice now and it has been very good. The men are playing on Saturday and we’re playing on Sunday. It is something that I think would be exciting to explore, the thought of the GAA and the LGFA coming under one umbrella, and double headers would be the big thing there.”

While the U20 final will be played before the men’s All-Ireland final on Saturday evening, O’Sullivan would welcome the ladies senior final as a curtain raiser to the men’s in future.

There have been mixed reactions to this through the years. Former Cork camogie star Aoife Murray gave her opinion loud and clear in January 2018 — “As a 34-year-old woman playing for my 17th year, opening up for a men’s game doesn’t appeal to me” — but her Rebels football counterpart O’Sullivan takes no issue with that.

No, absolutely not. I know this year that attendance isn’t an issue, but the thought of playing in front of a full Croke Park is every women’s footballer’s dream.

“When I started in 2012, I think we had 20,000 at games, we’ve doubled that now, and Croke Park has the potential to nearly double it again. So I think that would be a dream, to play in front of a full Croke Park in front of a men’s game.” 

While the intermediate and senior finals will form a ladies football double-header on Sunday, the junior decider is normally also played at Croke Park on All-Ireland finals day.

56,114 watched on in 2019, and it’s understood a triple-header of ladies football finals will continue to be the case going forward despite calls for a men’s and ladies senior final double-header.

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