"Tonight we're training on astroturf because we can't get any pitch facilities with lights" - facility issues an ongoing thing in women's game
Erika O'Shea and Sarah Dervan are excited by the prospect of a merger of the GAA, LGFA and Camogie associations, which, if introduced, should go a long way to solving the facility issues that are ongoing in the women's game, they say.
Finding pitches to train on and gyms to go to has been an issue down in Cork ever since O'Shea made it onto the county minor team three years ago. For her, it's been a meteoric rise since then, playing in All-Ireland finals and winning All-Star awards before she turned twenty but even at that, even at the top level of the game, the same issues surrounding the availability of pitches still persist.
O'Shea recalls one session in particular when, with the Cork minor team, the team were forced to train not on a pitch but on the side of it.
"Personally, I feel it's something that should be done," she says of the overall merger which will be down for decision at GAA congress later this month.
"I would love to see equality for all. In talking to Sarah Dervan (Galway camogie player,) we were discussing how we've always had problems with pitches and trying to gyms for teams," O'Shea adds at the launch of In The Zone, the GAA's first official protein bar.
"I feel like the lads don't have that problem.
"I remember when we're training at minor and we actually won the All-Ireland that year, we couldn't find a pitch, we were training on the side of a pitch. We were running up and down the side of a pitch. Those kind of things are disheartening. A merger would make such a big difference. It would be good for women in sport and keep a lot of girls involved," adds O'Shea, who plays wing back for the Cork senior team.
On the same subject, Galway camogie captain Sarah Dervan is just as eager for the union of the three associations because, as she says herself, these facility issues are an everyday thing.
"Unfortunately, we are in the middle of it," says Dervan.
"Tonight we're training on astroturf because we can't get any pitch facilities with lights. So it is a real struggle for us. We've trained on astro an awful lot this year so far and we're thankful of getting it, but it's not ideal. We're playing Dublin on Saturday so it's not ideal preparation for the first round of the league."
"You are curtailed a lot with what you can do on astroturf. You can do a bit of ball work, the speed work. You wouldn't really do much of your fitness on that because if you're a bit of an older one like myself, it does take it's toll on you but unfortunately it is the way it is. Hopefully this merger will happen sooner rather than later and all parties will be under the one umbrella.
"It's always been the way unfortunately. The fact that we're relying on the kindness of clubs to give us their facilities... it's not too bad in the summer but especially with it being very dark in the evenings, you have to get your training in and have a pitch with lights.
"You just accept it and I think that's pretty brutal to say. You want to be training in the best facilities. You want to be in the same places as the men's hurling and football in Galway. Unfortunately, we're not at the minute and it's not ideal preparation going into the Dublin game but we accept it, and I suppose it's a frightening thing."
Aside from the facilities, Dervan feels the biggest benefit would be felt in the mindset and the status of the game.
"Equality. Especially for the kids coming up in today's world," Dervan says, "that it shouldn't matter whether you play hurling or camogie or Ladies Football. At the end of the day it should all be one GAA and they have equal opportunities that their male counterparts have.
"There's four codes here today at the launch of In The Zone, we're all seen as equals and that's thanks to the GPA and WGPA merging and becoming the one brand."