‘A huge challenge’ – McLaughlin ready for Royal Rumble


With three minutes remaining in regular time, Dublin were four points ahead of Donegal in the Lidl National Football League Division 1 semi-final.

Yet it took no more than 23 seconds three weeks ago for the defending champions to lose their grip on another trophy as Emma McCrory and Yvonne Bonner raised two green flags for victory and booked the place of Donegal in the final.

“It was a bit manic,” Donegal’s Niamh McLaughlin told RTÉ Sport ahead of today’s final against Meath.

“You go from chasing the game to needing to protect it, we have two minutes to see it. It was a good way to find it though, not good for the heart but good for the neutral.

“I know a lot of people didn’t really see the end of the game, they had it turned off and they were like, ‘Oh, did you win?’ So that was a little crazy.

“When you win a game like that, there’s always a huge buzz on the pitch first because you’re thinking ‘did that just happen?’ but it was back to work on Monday and putting your head down and getting ready that day.”

If Donegal go one step further and beat the current All-Ireland champions this weekend, it will be a first Division 1 title for the county. Their last appearance at this level was in 2017 where they faced a strong Cork side who picked up a point to become five consecutive title holders.

“I was injured, so I was not part of the playing team [that year]“, said the qualified physiotherapist.

“Micheal Naughton was in charge at the time and we had a very talented group of players. We did well to get to the final and push Cork close. It was at Parnell [Park] that year it wasn’t even Croke Park, so it’s good to be back in a final.

“It’s not something we planned at the start of the year to say we wanted to play, but it’s good to be here now and to have a competitive game at this time of year, whereas for the championship you have friendlies or you just train.”

It’s a new couple and one where Meath is also looking to rise through the ranks as the inaugural Division 1 champions although, given the recent wave of success the Royals have enjoyed, playing big days in front of sizeable crowds becomes usual for Eamonn. Murray’s side.

“Playing them is huge for us and they’ve only really lost one or two competitive games in recent years, so it’s a huge challenge,” McLaughlin said.

“We will focus on the match itself and worry about the other elements as far as it is concerned.

“What they’ve done is amazing. People think all this success is the result of one year, but they’ve played three intermediate finals and they were together for that more in previous years, so it’s not bad. day to day.

“It’s a credit to them and what they’ve done for women’s Gaelic football over the last year is a fairy tale story. It’s brilliant, you saw the crowd they had in Navan for a league game, around 7,000. When you think of women’s football, that’s absolutely insane for a March day in Navan.

“It’s a new challenge. They are very well trained and have been working on it for four or five years, so we are under no illusions.”

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Moville’s wife is a former Republic of Ireland football international and also played for Sunderland and Newcastle. She has therefore seen with her own eyes what a professional sports environment looks like. She credited current manager Maxi Curran for taking them “to the next level” on facilities and expenses since he took over six years ago.

“He’s very good that way in trying to sort out the people who maybe need it the most, and committing to the team as a whole,” McLaughlin said.

“It’s still not where it needs to be in terms of equality. I know there’s a lot of pressure, especially on the GPA side.

“A lot of the girls playing are students and it’s not just people from Donegal who travel, there are people all over the country doing the same, and it’s a big commitment and people do because they want to.

“But, you shouldn’t have to fight somewhere else for different things because you’re paying for fuel to go to practice.”

Curran’s past experience alongside Jim McGuiness and Rory Gallagher with the Donegal men’s team has allowed him to see both sides of Gaelic football and the disparities between them.

“Spending on female footballers is something that is going to have to be addressed by all aspects of sporting society in the country by the minute,” Curran said.

“While the guys are getting their 65 cents a mile, our girls will be lucky to get 5 cents a mile. huge.

“So we’re not burdened with this challenge by the minute because they’re not getting anything as it is. They’re getting something at the end of the year, but that wouldn’t equate to five cents a mile .

Donegal Manager Maxi Curran

“We’re trying to resource the thing as best we can – physios, strength and conditioning, pitch rentals. To get good quality pitches, you have to pay for them, so they’re well maintained except for mileage charges players.

“If you look at the balance sheet of any [men’s] county team at the end of the year, it’s probably six-figure sums for expenses. I’d say if you put together the top 10 teams in the LGFA, they wouldn’t pay a six-figure total. Perhaps all the counties combined wouldn’t be in six figures for their overall travel spending.

“It’s just a fact of life, there’s poverty in some parts of the world, there isn’t in ours. It’s like that at the minute, we’re the poor relation in this regarding that exact element. But I think an awful lot of people are very aware of the massive improvements in a footballer’s life and the whole landscape.”

On Monday, the GAA launched its five-year strategic plan to merge the GAA, the LGFA and the Camogie Association. While the sentiment may be welcomed, there are reservations within the LGFA and the Camogie Association regarding the merger.

“I think that should definitely happen,” McLaughlin said.

“I hope it will make a difference. There have been discussions over the past few years whether or not this should happen. [but] I think now that the wheels are in motion, he’s there for people to see that they made that statement. They’ve made it public and people can see it, so there’s added pressure, maybe not pressure, but to follow things.”

“I think it’s a very big problem,” said the Donegal manager.

“I think it’s one of those things in life where you think it should happen, but I think if you really dig deep, as far as I know, the majority of the funding that the GAA gets on a an is based on attendance.The women’s game currently does not attract large numbers, so they do not generate this type of expense.

“For that [the money] to get as far as the players there would require a massive move in support of the men’s game to give it some sort of parity. I think there’s a lot of introspection to be done and a lot of meetings to be had between certain organizations before that happens. I think it will be a gesture from men’s football to their female counterparts.

“At the same time, it’s not about big games either, the clubs are the base of the association and there are a huge number of women who are also the backbone of the clubs now. I’m sure that is something the GAA is aware is going to have to happen, but how quickly it happens is another thing.

“We are here today at the launch of the Lidl League final, the involvement of bodies like Lidl and TG4 has definitely improved the situation. We are up but I think it will take a long time and I don’t I don’t know if it’ll ever reach a level of parity with the boys, to be fair.”

Follow Donegal v Meath (4pm) live on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app and listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Sport


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