Ladies Football – OPINION: It Just Didn’t Feel Like A Championship 

Kilkerrin Clonberne

The 2018 Claregalway Hotel Ladies Football Championships kicked off Friday evening (6th July) with three games in the senior championship and three in the intermediate. 

Six games in the top two tiers of Galway Ladies Football took place on Friday evening at six different venues…. at the same time!!!

It’s a glorious era for Ladies Football nationally with 46,000 attending the 2017 All-Ireland Finals and the occasion was fitting for the spectacle.  But that just doesn’t seem to carry through at domestic level where games are played without any of the grandeur of the most important competition of the year.

Now, firstly this isn’t an attack on the co-ordinators as I know first-hand how hard it is to organise matches when every club, understandably, has its own agenda.  But even the 2017 county senior final didn’t seem to carry any more prestige than a glorified challenge match.

Let me give you an example, we were in Caltra’s ‘old pitch’ for the defending champions Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s opening contest as they began their six-in-a-row ambitions – their first game since winning the county title last year.

There was no gate, no programme, no scoreboard and a personal pet peeve of mine – no flags being used by the umpires.

We’re not lying here!  This is the opening round of the Galway Senior Ladies Football Championship and for the entire second half, two umpires at one of the goals are beside each other having a chat, barely waving their hands to indicate a score or a wide.

In fairness to referee David Breslin, he was kitted out properly and looked like someone who came to referee a championship match.  The supporters from both teams were vocal behind their teams but for anyone pass Caltra Cemetery on that evening wouldn’t have known how big a contest this was.

Now, at the end of the day, nobody would have been expected to fork out €5 to watch one team beat the other by 46 points but it got us thinking.  Why were the six games all on at the same time?  And why couldn’t two of the three games be put together as a double header at a neutral venue.

But it’s not just the Executive that need to look at how they can raise the profile of their main domestic competition.  The clubs need to start doing more too.  A quick glance at the three Facebook pages of the winning senior teams and it would have been hard to know that this was championship action.

In fairness to Moycullen, they posted up a picture of their winning team after the game.  But Kilkerrin/Clonberne only put up one post with the score.  And Claregalway didn’t even mention their win over Dunmore MacHales.

It was much better among the intermediate teams with St. James acknowledging their win and Tuam/Cortoon mentioning the score along with pictures.  But it took ‘Ballygar Banter’ to actually make one of the six games feel important with their fantastic pictures from the St. Brendan’s vs Barna contest.

Imagine if Moycullen vs Annaghdown was put together with Claregalway vs Dunmore in a suitable neutral venue.  A good match programme and it was advertised properly a week in advance.  If possible, a national anthem played before the second game.  Just imagine.

It happens in camogie!  Duggan Park always play ‘Amhran na bhFiann’ for senior and intermediate games.  The County Final is in a county ground and carries LIVE radio commentary.  Last year’s ladies football final didn’t have a scoreboard.  Come to think of it, there wasn’t even neutral linespeople!

We’re not trying to have a go at all those hard workers who are doing brilliant work in bringing through quality young players in wearing the maroon and white.  And running clubs is a hard and thankless task that requires volunteers giving up their own free time for little or no reward.

But at home, the domestic senior club championship should be the marquee event leading to a final day bringing all of Galway together, just like what happens among hurling, football and camogie fans.  And there should be the opportunity to see more than one game.

The next round isn’t until the end of August as everyone gets behind the county now.  But the club players deserve their occasion too.  The players put in the effort and give up their time.  Let’s give them a stage fitting of their talents, abilities and dedication.