Women’s GPA busy doing it for themselves
Tyrone footballer Gemma Begley says new players’ body has made significant progress
Tyrone’s Gemma Begley in action against Meath’s Tara Halligan. “We’ve made good progress so far but it’s just the beginning.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Tyrone Gaelic footballer Gemma Begley, a two-time All Star, is a member of the executive team of the Women’s Gaelic Players Association which was formally launched a year ago this week. The association was set up to represent and support inter-county football and camogie players, along the lines of the men’s Gaelic Players Association, and to help address any issues that concern them.
So, how have things gone for the WGPA in its first year, have you been encouraged by the start it’s had?
We have a rep in each county and they’ve really helped get the message out so we could get players to sign up.
The launch got good coverage so that helped a lot, and I suppose we were able to ride the crest of the wave of women in sport last year.
Your own experiences as a player clearly prompted you to get involved?
When we brought the reps from each county together I think it was really reassuring for them to hear there are the same problems in every county. Some, of course, are better than others, they provide really good training facilities, but there’s no perfect county.
Presumably you are powerless to improve this without the cooperation of county boards? Is urging them to do better central to your role?
Is there a big difference around the country in how county boards treat the women’s teams?
It’s just going to take time to change the culture of it, our job is to go in there among the county boards and players and make it happen.
And people don’t know just to ask for these things; the culture in women’s sport is just not to ask, so that’s where we feel we can make a change for players. If something isn’t right it’s okay to stand up and say it’s not acceptable.
And you’d have seen last year there were a lot more players speaking out, not even through us but you’d like to think they feel more empowered.
Why were they quiet before?
They’re playing for the love of the game, to represent their families and counties, they’re not looking for anything in return – the number one priority for them when we spoke to them was things like training facilities, getting physio for their injuries, they’re the kind of issues we’re working to improve.
And the big issue of the week: Ladyball. How did you feel about it?
But on a personal level I don’t think it’s something I would particularly want to be associated with. My overriding emotion was disappointment, that they must have spent so much money on the advertising when it could have been channelled in to encouraging supporters to go to games.
I was probably just a bit disappointed with it. But I suppose whatever investment comes through has to be welcomed, whatever way they go about it. Time will tell how it works out.
Hopes for the year ahead?
I keep going back to the financial restraints, we have to focus on what changes we can bring about. We’ve made good progress so far, but it’s just the beginning.