Ladies GFA

Where to now for Ladies game?

John Connolly


John Connolly


Where to now for Ladies game?

The Leitrim Ladies team stand for the National anthem during their last Championship outing in 2017, a heavy defeat in the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Quarter-Finals

After an already turbulent year, Leitrim Ladies football stands at a crossroads with the news that the County Senior team will not field during this year's Championship.

Leitrim LGFA Board voted unanimously at an Emergency Meeting on Monday May 1, to accept a dispensation that they had sought from the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, a dispensation that would allow them not to field a County Senior side this Summer.

Under LGFA rules, a County that fails to field in the Provincial or All-Ireland Championship series would be liable to suspension from all games at all levels for 12 months.

The dispensation means that Ladies football in Leitrim will not be suspended but comes with the price that Leitrim team cannot participate in Connacht Club Championships later this year.

In that strangely Irish way, when the news broke that the Green & Gold Ladies would not be taking to the field in this year's TG4 Connacht Intermediate Championship, there was a furious outcry on social media (see article below).

With palpable anger, many wondered how a County that won the All-Ireland U14 B Championship last year, contested six Connacht Intermediate Finals in a row and saw Kiltubrid reach two Connacht Senior Finals in a row in recent years could fall so low.

Leitrim GAA even got some of the flak, many of the posters not realising that the two bodies are two distinct organisations and are not affiliated to each other, despite many links at club and county level.

It probably sums up the problems facing the Ladies game in counties as the general public seem to think the same level of engagement that exists for the Men's game also exists for the Ladies game.

Unfortunately, it doesn't and those promoting the Ladies game in Leitrim are a small and, it now seems, a dwindling band.

There was plenty of warnings that the Leitrim LGFA were in trouble with the Observer carrying three back-page stories in a row at the start of this year about the inability to form a County Board.

A committee did come together but getting a Senior team manager and fielding a team proved an impossible task with Leitrim playing just twice during the Lidl Division 3 campaign.

From the outside looking in, the problems in Leitrim Ladies football have existed for a number of years with speculation that rivalries at club level have spilled over in County matters.

The protracted saga of the transfers of Leitrim players Michelle and Emma Guckian to Kiltubrid last year, a move opposed by the Ladies County Board, did nothing to help the county's cause but the problems have been ongoing with a rapid turnover in County Senior team managers in recent years.

Unfortunately, this development is not a new phenomena for the Ladies game in the county as Leitrim have twice failed to field at Senior level in Inter-county competition in the past 30 years.

The first came five years after Leitrim won the All-Ireland Junior title in 1988, a regrading to Junior in 1995 prompting a revival of the County Senior team.

And in 2008, just a year after Leitrim had thrilled the county when winning the first ever All-Ireland Intermediate Championship title, the county again failed to field in the championship.

So it is not a new problem and we feel compelled to make one point - the anger and outrage of Leitrim football fans over the failure to field this year is understandable but it took three attempts to form a Ladies committee this year and volunteers weren't exactly knocking down the door to help.

And in a perverse irony, the penalty of no Connacht Club action may actually be a benefit after all our representatives were shredded to pieces last year in Provincial action.

Yet there are signs of life - St. Clare's CS in Manorhamilton reached an All-Ireland Final in fantastic style and Leitrim won the All-Ireland B title last year. Results recently at underage level have not been good but Leitrim Ladies football have always risen like a phoenix from the flames!

It is a situation with no easy solution but unless the first steps are taken now, we will be back in this situation time and time again.