The latest update on attempts to integrate the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association is that ‘starting in early May’ the ‘next major phase of the listening process’ will begin.
This will include taking submissions from every county board across all three associations as well as conducting a number of formal meetings with individual boards.
It is a precise and exacting process but it is also a slow one. Meanwhile, in Cavan, the senior ladies team is at loggerheads with its county board over the provision of gear and expenses.
The Cavan ladies didn’t fulfil last weekend’s scheduled National League fixture against Tyrone and it remains to be seen what the punishment will be for that and at what point the row bottoms out.
Suffice to say, full integration and, one presumes, improved standards can’t come too soon for the Cavan players.
“Obviously as a player you just want to play football,” said Armagh’s former Footballer of the Year Aimee Mackin at the launch of the Glenveagh backed 2023 Gaelic4Girls programme. “When it does come down to that [boycotting a fixture], obviously it’s not great for the players. And I do sympathise with them and I hope they get the support they need.”
In Armagh, Mackin is happy with how they are catered for. For starters, the county broke new ground by developing their own training centre dedicated specifically to ladies football.
“The more you know, then each year you can sort of progress that bit more,” said Mackin. “What you don’t know, you can’t sort of progress on it if that makes sense. Each year you learn what other counties, or other genders, the males, are getting and you sort of learn that way. You sort of adapt. We are looked after in Armagh and our county board is so supportive of us. The same as the men’s. We’re in a good position and thankfully we have good people around us, and on our committees. They only want the best for us.”
Part of the problem in Cavan is that many of their players are Dublin-based, so travel costs are crippling.
“Most of us are based in Armagh,” said Mackin of the Orchard’s situation. “Thankfully we’re all pretty close, bar the few university students that would be in Belfast.”
Mackin and Armagh are currently preparing for the Division 2 league final against Laois at Croke Park on April 15th. They have blitzed all comers so far this season, including All-Ireland intermediate title holders Laois in February, and will be favourites to collect the crown and return to the top flight for the first time since 2017.
The Ulster champions and 2020 All-Ireland semi-finalists clearly operate in a high-performing environment but Mackin’s sister and Armagh colleague, Blaithin, scaled even higher peaks as an AFLW championship winner with Melbourne last winter.
She managed to return in time to play in the league and has benefited from the exposure to the professional game, according to Aimee.
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“Probably physically wise she is a lot faster and stronger but I think also in terms of the professionalism of the sport out there, and how they go about things off the pitch, it’s definitely been a big plus to us,” said the reigning All-Star.
Given that the last two LGFA Footballer of the Year winners - Niamh McLaughlin and Vikki Wall - subsequently signed up with AFLW teams, 2020 recipient Mackin is an obvious target, particularly with her sister already so successful in the oval ball game.
“I was over there visiting her before Christmas,” said Aimee. “I had a great time over there but my full focus is just on Armagh and that’s where it stays at the minute.”