THE Kerry minor ladies’ footballers have said they are “totally heartbroken” by the decision not to complete this season’s All-Ireland Championship because of Covid-19.
They said they were utterly shocked and “broken down to tears” when they read online that the series was being abandoned in a year that they harboured great hope of becoming champions.
Team captain Danielle O’Leary, from Rathmore GAA Club, told KillarneyToday.com that the very close-knit squad really believed this would be their year after regrouping having suffered the heartbreak of defeat in the All-Ireland finals at under 14 and under 16 level.
“This year was our last chance and we promised each other that we would do whatever it takes to get over the line,” she said.
In addition to their studies and preparing for exams, the girls had been training every Wednesday and Saturday since last December and they also gave a commitment to undertake demanding strength and conditioning and running programmes in their own time.
Kerry had already beaten Tipperary in Tralee in this year’s provincial championship on March 1 and they were due to play Cork on March 13 but play stopped when the coronavirus lockdown was enforced.
Although arrangements have been made to complete the Munster Championship – Kerry are scheduled to play the winners of the Tipperary v Cork tie – there will be no All-Ireland series in 2020.
In a no nonsense statement, the squad said: “We had sacrificed the last eight months to achieve our goal. It has been a hectic time – we were expected to give a hundred and ten per cent to our studies/work and to football.”
Of the demanding routine encountered by the talented squad, the statement added: “All of our schedules consisted of school or work from 9 to 5. Most of us had to go to supervised study after school just so we could get a head start on our work.
“Then from there, straight to training only to return home again at 9 or 10 at night to finish our work and fit in as much study as possible and get ready for the next day again”.
The team expressed disbelief that they have not been treated as equals, especially with the confirmation that the GAA will run an All-Ireland series for minor boys.
The statement added: “We were utterly shocked and deeply disappointed with the LGFA when we heard that there is no minor All-Ireland series. The news had broken us down to tears”.
Reasons advanced by the Ladies Gaelic Football Association for not completing the All-Ireland series included a limited timeframe and the crossover between minor players that are also on senior inter-county panels.
But, the Kerry minor ladies asked: “If the minor boys have enough time to play championship why can’t we? Our minor championship only consists of five games in total, including the All-Ireland final”.
They stressed that they understand these are strange and challenging times for the governing body of the LGFA but they noted that every county is crying out for the minor ladies’ All-Ireland campaign to continue with the Dublin and Waterford squads even organising petitions to try to force a change of heart.
Urging a LGFA rethink on the matter, the collective squad statement said: “We have sacrificed too much to just watch our dreams being taken from us. To call off the ladies’ minor and underage All-Ireland campaigns is an act of discrimination and sexism.”
“We’re not asking for money or assets. We’re asking for equality, we’re asking for the opportunity to play the game we love,” the girls added.
The players praised the Kerry LGFA Chairman Seán Walsh and the management tea along with the LGFA Munster committee for ensuring that, at least, the Munster Championship will be completed.
The Kerry minor panel, managed by Rory Kilgallen of John Mitchels, boasts several players from the Killarney and East Kerry area including Treasa O’Sullivan and Julie Delaney (Dr Crokes), Kerri Ann Hanrahan (Killarney Legion), Danielle O’Leary and Mary Collins (Rathmore), Ava Doherty and Caoimhe Crowley (Glenflesk), Chloe O’Conner and Katie Brosnan (Firies), Ciara Fitzgerald (Currow) and Maud Kelly (Fossa).
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