Mayo Senior Ladies midfielder and former UL Ladies GAA manager, Fiona McHale has declared that due to a lack of resources within her county she has never been financially compensated for travel to training or matches.
The county player, who starred in Mayo’s defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland Final two weeks ago, also believes the GAA system in colleges across Ireland is “possibly the model template for national level.”
In 2015, a report from the Women’s Gaelic Players Association (WGPA) found that only seven percent of female players received travel expenses when attending training and 62 percent have been left short of money due to injury.
McHale admitted, “I have never received travel expenses for travelling to either training or games. There isn’t enough money being generated by county boards and the money that is there is being used for other priority areas over travel expenses.”
“I would hope that this would change in the near future as I feel a lot of girls are forced to opt out of playing for their county as they just cannot give the commitment required and this is sometimes down to having a part-time job that they need in order to get them through college,” suggested the Carnacon star.
“Our male counterparts do not have this issue and are hugely supported in terms of expenses.”
“We play because we love the sport and enjoy competing but it is an added stress when you are out of pocket because of it.”
From her own experience of third-level competition, she feels that perhaps a similar level of investment and access to facilities needs to be implement into the ladies senior championship in the future.
“We have access to a gym, a strength and conditioning coach, consistent pitch slots, fitness testing, etc. The overall GAA club in the college is run by the one development officer and committee.
“Resources are shared out equally and sport science facilities are easily accessible when in a university setting,” she added.
When it comes to managing a team rather than playing on it, McHale said she found the transition tricky initially but has thrived in her role with the UL team since joining them four years ago.
“Managing is definitely harder than playing when you are used to having control over what happens on the field but I really enjoyed the four years that I was involved.
“This was a huge challenge for me as I had never been involved in that level of coaching before and I was coaching a lot of my peers, like players on the Mayo team and girls I play against.
“They were always a fantastic group to work with. I loved the coaching side of it and the fact it was a college team made life a lot easier for planning and looking after players compared to challenges inter-county management teams face in terms of resources.”
This year, McHale is taking a career break and is now studying in UL, looking at improving health behaviours and health literacy in adolescents. This also makes her eligible to play football for the university.
“Because I am now a student again I will be playing this year, which will be very different to what I’m used to with UL. We have started back training and there is a great bunch of girls there who are extremely motivated to do well.
“They are coming off the back of an O’Connor Cup win so this year will be a huge challenge in trying to raise the bar again and develop and improve from last year.”