"It's now that these fixtures need to be sorted and amended" - Jacob advises associations to plan ahead
What's another year?
The whole world has turned upside down in 2020 but amid the chaos, the fixture problems that haunt women's GAA remain the same. All resilience and staying power.
Just in keeping with some sort of normality, the Camogie Association and the LGFA found themselves at loggerheads once more with Championship season looming.
The fall-out from the respective fixture clashes led to some bad vibes and indeed, a strike threat from the Cork camogie team who were most affected by the fixing of a ladies football and camogie championship on the same November Saturday. Five Cork women play both codes but the whole camogie panel were willing to follow in solidarity.
Largely due to the co-operation of the Galway camogie team, this fixture clash has thankfully been avoided with the camogie game now moved to the Sunday instead.
None-the-less, with a whole host of games to be streamed and the knock-out games to be shown live, former Wexford star and RTÉ pundit Ursula Jacob can't help but shake her head as the optimism around the new season got overshadowed by the persistence of these issues in the women's game.
"It's very, very frustrating as a former player to see some of this still going on. I think it was very disappointing what happened because we want the best players playing," she says.
"We want dual players to be able to play both codes. From a camogie perspective, I'd like it if we built on a great year last year. We had one of the best [All-Ireland] finals in recent years between Galway and Kilkenny. But we don't want that to be just a once off, we want it to continue this year, and unfortunately, in the lead-up to this weekend's games, all the talk has been about the dual player and the negative reaction to last week's congress.
"It really should be about some of the brilliant games we have. We have Galway against Wexford [this weekend]. Unfortunately, Offaly has given a walkover against Cork but I think we're looking forward to a really exciting championship.
"I just wish that the Camogie Association and the LGFA would sit down and realise that we want the best for both sets of players and we have to find a balance."
"I can understand from a Cork point of view that this is not just a situation that has happened this year. This has happened the last three, four or five years and at times, it feels like repeating the same thing over and over that they can't understand how planning at the start of the year can't facilitate the dual player..."
At club level, there were stories upon stories of non-co-operation between the parties at club level, with Cahir in Tipperary forfeiting a junior county final.
"Some people might say "women's sport are always cribbin'" but you're not going to stand back and allow it.
"You wonder what's going on in people's heads.
"We talk about equality in women's sport but you have to question it."@MoloneyAishling on the @CahirClub situation 👏 pic.twitter.com/Bp0N643smz
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) September 23, 2020
As for the potential strike, Jacob said she wouldn't have issues with the Cork women standing up to make their point.
"I say 'fair play to them,' they're staying very unified about it. That kind of thinking can bring a panel even tighter together as a close-knit unit."
"We saw how Galway have offered to move their fixture but Cork are going to be there or thereabouts in both the camogie and the Ladies football so we know and anticipate that they're going to be there or thereabouts in the quarter-finals or semi-finals in both codes. It's now that these fixtures need to be sorted and amended."
"These girls want to concentrate and focus on preparing and training at a high level – they don’t want the stress of having to deal with striking or dealing with media interest on this. Their focus should be on the playing, and there’s enough challenges in the current environment in relation to Covid-19, restrictions and protocol.
"You want to take it out of the players’ hands as much as possible, you want the county boards and the two organisations to come together and deal with the logistics and facilitating the dual players.
"I want to see the likes of Hannah Looney represent her county at ladies’ football and camogie because that’ll only raise the standard across the board. You don’t want girls giving up or choosing one over the other.
"Why can’t they love playing both games? I would be hoping the strike doesn’t take place, I hope a resolution can occur before that happens."
In a ray of optimism, camogie's successful new rules are set to be implemented in the championship which Jacob feels will add to the game's flow.
"It’s a really positive move because it allows the flow to the game. The last number of years there was a lot of frustration around the rules, it was a very stop-start affair, particularly around some of the All-Ireland finals.
"When these games are being televised, you want the best camogie players being able to showcase their skills without constantly stop-starting the game. It worked well in any of the league games I saw earlier this year and it’s important to implement it in the upcoming championship.
"I’m sure they might have to tweak some of it, but I just think it’s very positive overall that we’re moving forward and listening to the players. This is what they’re wanting from the game as well."