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Ladies funding ‘needs to be start of something’


MAKING PROGRESS Lisa Cafferky (left) is pictured in action for Mayo against Cork during last year’s National League clash in Mallow. Pic: Sportsfile

Mayo’s Lisa Cafferky reacts to last week’s announcement on increased funding for ladies footballers

Edwin McGreal

HER home may be only 50 steps from the Roscommon border, but there isn’t a more passionate Mayo woman on the planet than Lisa Cafferky.
Throw in the strong suspicion that she has Kilmovee tattooed on her heart and one begins to understand what drives the woman who earns a living as ‘Sports Development Manager’ in Trinity College.
On Friday last she was back home in Kilmovee putting her renowned painting skills to good use in the family home, but she still found time to speak with The Mayo News about her beloved club, growing the support base of ladies football, and last week’s government announcement of increased state funding for female inter-county squads.
In a groundbreaking move, the government declared state funding for female inter-county players will rise from €700,000 last season to €2.4 million in 2021. This is a hugely significant step according to Cafferky, a woman who has lived and played through some of the most dramatic changes in the history of Irish female sport since her senior debut with Mayo in 2007.
“The news was huge. Government funding has been in place since 2017 giving female inter-county teams €9,000 a year, but this is a different level entirely. “None of that money ever came to individual players. The €9,000 was put towards enhancing the team environment and we’d have worked with the county board and the management team to decide how it would be spent.
“It went on S&C and nutrition and that was a massive help to us, but at the same time there was a gaping discrepancy between male and female funding.
“Statistics tell us there was a difference of 77 percent which was hard to fathom. “Therefore, this week’s announcement bringing parity to the situation is really significant,” explained the dynamic attacker who along with inter-county colleague Eilis Ronayne, has been Mayo’s representative on the GPA for the past few years.
Cafferky made her debut as a Mayo senior 14 seasons ago, spent six years in London and returned to the green and red fold two years ago.
She’s driven by the pride of wearing the jersey and leaving the sport in a better place when she puts her boots on a nail in the shed.
“Personally, I found it very hard to understand how there was a difference between the funding going to a male compared to a female. Whether you’re a lad playing for Mayo or one of us, we’re all in it for the same reason, to represent our people and do our very best for the jersey.
“I think we should all take pride in the fact that there’s equity there now and we’re leaving the jersey in a better place. This announcement goes some way towards recognising your effort is equal no matter whether you’re male or female.”
The increase in squad funding is welcomed by all involved but Cafferky says the battle for equality is far from over. The next challenge to be faced is traveling expenses, which are almost non-existent for female footballers.
“The GPA study last year showed that only 7 percent of female footballers got some sort of travel expenses. We don’t get any travel expenses to play for Mayo.
“The LGFA are hoping to put a small percentage of this funding towards travel and even that would help greatly, especially the girls in college struggling find the money to get home to play for Mayo,” the Kilmovee woman stated before leaving nobody in any doubt about the continuing battle towards a level playing pitch for the genders in GAA.
“The increased funding is great, but it’s the start of something, rather than the end.”

Lisa Cafferky on…

I’M really passionate and proud to represent my home place. Last year during the pandemic, club football was rightly given centre stage and I was fortunate enough to be able to go back and play with Kilmovee. We won the county final and the joy that brought to the parish was unbelievable. That will live long in history as a special moment. Every coach and manager I’ve had with Kilmovee over the years have given me the skills and the tools to represent the club in the Mayo jersey.

Media coverage
IT has improved dramatically during my playing career. Live games on TV are a regular occurrence now and some female footballers are widely recognisable. In truth, the LIDL sponsorship over the past few years has taken things to a different level entirely and that deal showed what can be achieved with a little creativity and investment.
Thankfully, from a media point of view we’re also at a stage where journalists are critical of poor performances and it’s not just ‘they did their best.’ We’re well fit to take credit and criticism.

Supporting Mayo
I’M a passionate Mayo supporter. I support Mayo teams whether it’s James Horan and the lads, the camogie, the Ladies team or all the various underage teams. Sometimes, I think people feel being a ‘Mayo supporter’ only applies to following the senior lads team. That doesn’t wash with me at all. Being a Mayo supporter means supporting Mayo teams as a whole.
I support whatever Mayo team goes out and whoever is in the jersey. We’re all one and I think the sooner that attitude becomes widespread the better.

Supporting the ladies
THE following for Ladies football has been increasing steadily, but I honestly think people don’t know what they’re missing. Go to a Ladies match in your local pitch and see the excitement, the free-flowing, attacking nature of the sport and you’ll love it.
Playing inter-county double-headers is a great way of attracting supporters. We played Dublin in MacHale Park before the lads game and there were thousands watching the second half. Some of them would never have seen a Ladies game before and suddenly realised what they were missing.

Merging the LGFA and GAA
I WOULD like to this occur. There are huge calls for it to happen. Of course, it would need to be carefully planned and implemented so that all the positive progress made in Ladies Football remains. With the GPA merged now it’s just the next natural step forward.
Here in Kilmovee, there’s a very close relationship between the men’s committee and the Ladies committee and things have improved dramatically as regards access to pitches and the likes. We all represent the same jersey, the same parish and everyone contributes.


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