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Sinead Finnegan plays down holiday controversy

Dublin star pleased with the progress and increasing popularity of women’s GAA

Sinead Finnegan: “Ladies football is still kind of a young enough sport. There’s so much learning for us all to do.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Sinead Finnegan was being pulled in multiple directions yesterday. A PR executive by day, the Dublin defender was busy co-ordinating a photocall and media event with several leading Dublin football stars for an AIG Insurance launch. One that she just so happened to be taking part in herself.

“Double-jobbing,” she laughed.

At least she was well-equipped to deal with a minor PR scandal from last week: the revelation that the Dublin women’s team were being forced to fund-raise for a team holiday.

During an appearance on The Ray D’Arcy Show last weekend, Dublin’s Fiona Hudson explained that the women’s team were about to embark on fundraising for a team getaway and noted that “it doesn’t come with the package like the guys”.

While the men’s side receive a grant from Croke Park to fund such a trip, there is no such funding in place from the Ladies Gaelic Football Association.

The comment raised eyebrows, particularly given the fact that women’s football is coming off the back of its most successful season yet in terms of attendances and viewership. For her part, Finnegan downplayed the controversy.

“In terms of holiday and fundraising, I’m pretty sure the guys have to fund-raise for their holidays as well,” she explained.

“Obviously we wouldn’t have as much access to funds as they would, but I’m pretty sure with the guys we have behind us that they’ll do a sterling job in trying to generate a few funds for a holiday. Whether that be to Barbados or whether that be to Dingle, we don’t care.

“We’ll be happy to go down the country and have a holiday. If we do get a holiday, that would be great, but that’s not really the sole focus.”

Dean Rock, also present at yesterday’s launch, confirmed that the men’s team also have to fund-raise.

“Every team has to fund-raise,” he said. “That’s just part and parcel of it, but maybe we get more of a draw than the ladies would. Hopefully that’s starting to change.”

Rock, whose girlfriend Niamh McEvoy plays with the Dublin team, stated that such a holiday would be “rightly deserved” and asserted that the women’s training schedule was “far more in-depth than even ours was this year.”

Skill level

“For an outsider looking in, you’d nearly think, ‘Jesus, the men surely do more than the girls,’ but it’s not the case,” he said.

Indeed, Finnegan outlined the training schedule this year and said players were generally out on the pitch four or five times a week. She went on to describe the rigorous skills-based approach adopted by manager Mick Bohan in training.

“Every time we took to the field, we did the same thing for at least 20 to 25 minutes,” she explained. “So we’re all doing dummies and doing left and right solos. And me – being very much a bog standard back – I’d never done a dummy in my life but I can do it on both feet now.”

She credited Bohan with helping improve the skill level of the squad, something she reckons is crucial to both sustaining the sport’s current growth and attracting new fans.

“The onus is probably on us as players and other teams around the country to make sure that we’re maintaining those high standards of quality when we’re playing football,” she said. “And to try improve as footballers and try improve the skills of the game and make the sport interesting for sports fans in general, not just our family and friends.”

She went on to illustrate the satisfaction of winning over those who may have been previously dismissive of the sport.

“I have a friend and he criticises ladies football all the time,” she said.

“I remember after our semi-final, he actually said to me, ‘I enjoyed watching every single minute of that match. I didn’t complain once.’ And for me to hear that, I was like, that’s the biggest compliment I could ever get from him.

“Ladies football is still kind of a young enough sport. There’s so much learning for us all to do and if we continue to do that, hopefully the general sports fan will continue to enjoy the game.”