DISAPPOINTED. FRUSTRATED. COMPLETELY and utterly defeated… once again.

Another weekend, another controversy dominating the landscape when it comes to women’s sport. It really is a case of one step forward, two steps back. 

Galway’s Shauna Molloy and Megan Glynn dejected after yesterday’s defeat.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The 2020 All-Ireland ladies football senior semi-final meeting of Cork and Galway will forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, no one will remember how Cork won on the pitch, but we must remember how ladies football and women’s sport — scratch that, sport… sport is sport — lost off it.

For this to happen in this day and age is simply not good enough. It’s beggars belief, but in no way is it surprising. This kind of debacle is nothing new for those at the heart of women’s Gaelic games.

Like their male counterparts, women’s Gaelic games players give so much to represent their county: the training, the sacrifice, the travel (without any expenses, for the majority) and they expect nothing in return. But the very least they deserve is respect, and competency from those at the top.

That was certainly nowhere to be seen yesterday. You know the story by now: another late venue change saw one of the biggest matches of the year moved from Parnell Park to Croke Park at the eleventh hour, wrecking preparations and forfeiting TV coverage.

Would this happen in ‘The Men’s Game’? Don’t ask stupid questions….

The worst part is all of this could have been avoided, and the story behind it all should answer that question.

This all started long before the frozen pitch in Donnycarney yesterday morning. Ultimately, it stems from the failure of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] and Camogie Association to co-ordinate their fixtures — a constant problem over the past few years.

Both All-Ireland football semi-finals had originally been set for Thurles’ Semple Stadium on 28 November, though that brought a clash with the camogie last-four double-header pencilled in for Páirc Uí Chaoimh. To the LGFA’s credit, an alternative plan was found to avoid a dual fixture clash for five Cork players, with the meeting of the Rebels and Galway moved to 6 December at the halfway house of LIT Gaelic Grounds.

With three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin waiting in the decider after their win over Armagh, last week’s build-up should have been centred on who would join them: their arch-rivals from this decade, or last year’s finalists? Instead, controversy marred that as the venue switched to the capital.

Cork’s Doireann O’Sullivan on the ball.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

A logistical nightmare ensued, original plans scuppered with new ones to be made. But both sides got on with it. Until the reasoning behind the switch was reported by The Irish Examiner’s Eoghan Cormican. 

“Limerick training session behind Cork-Galway ladies football venue switch,” was a headline which certainly sent tongues wagging. The Treaty hurlers came in for plenty of criticism through the week, but the fundamental fact of the matter is the GAA own the facilities. At the end of the day, the Gaelic Grounds is Limerick’s pitch to train on.

The baffling part is that the LGFA were allegedly warned that in the event of John Kiely’s side reaching the All-Ireland final, their session would get preference over the ladies football clash. Surely some common sense and foresight would have been enough to avoid a potential PR disaster.

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While other closer venues were ruled out because only a finite number have suitable floodlights and the required infrastructure for TV, the game was moved to Parnell Park. Cork boss Ephie Fitzgerald was vocal on the switch-up, but both teams ultimately accepted the card they had been dealt.

The Rebels stayed in a hotel in Dublin on Saturday night, which worked in their favour through the drama before throw-in as Parnell Park was deemed unplayable, while Galway’s pre-match preparations were thrown into complete and utter disarray.

Tim Rabbitt’s side were informed about the switch to Croke Park, and the earlier throw-in time, en route, and as he has since explained, they only had a seven-minute warm-up under their belt having been rushed by officials.

That seems to have shown on the pitch — though the majority of us didn’t get to see it as TG4′s coverage fell through, and understandably, no alternative was put in place with set-up issues and broadcast rights at play — as Galway started slowly, and Cork banged in two early goals.

The upheaval in preparation certainly played some part in that: this was not the Galway we know, and that all hit home listening to a forlorn Rabbitt over the past 24 hours and heartbroken experienced defender Sinéad Burke on Today with Claire Byrne.

But unfortunately, we’re not talking about how the game was won and lost, the spectacle on show or how old foes Cork and Dublin are gearing up for a fifth All-Ireland final in seven years. We’re talking about controversy, as we have done for so long. This conversation is, of course, welcome, and the more of it, the better — but now we need action.

Galway’s Sinead Burke and Mairead Seoighe.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

An apology could have been a promising first step, and it’s the least that was expected after such a disappointing day. But LGFA President Marie Hickey’s interview on Morning Ireland certainly didn’t help matters.

The entire situation, perhaps, underlines further the need for amalgamation; the need for the LGFA, Camogie Association and the GAA to come under the one umbrella. While it’s something many don’t see happening any time soon, it certainly feels like the only solution right now.

The LGFA and Camogie Association’s respective points of view can be seen; they’re proud to be separate entities; they’ve done incredible work building themselves from the ground up; there’s pride, jobs and what not else on the line.

But it feels like that all of needs to be put to one side, as the bigger picture must be considered: players are at the heart of our games, and they must come first.

Respect is the very least they deserve at the end of the day — and that certainly went amiss yesterday.

Listen to Emma Duffy and Sinead Farrell discuss the controversy on the latest episode of GAA Weekly. 

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