By Pat Costello
AS the row in Kildare county camogie panel rumbles on team captain, Lea Sutton, spoke to the Kildare Nationalist to clarify the letter the County Panel issued to the Kildare clubs through the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) on Tuesday.
Make no mistake about it this is not a situation that the Kildare Camogie Panel wished to find themselves in nor are they comfortable in the situation. “Everybody in that squad this year and every year, all we wanted to do was play hurling,” Lea Sutton told us. “We wouldn’t be there if we didn’t want to do it. We have sacrificed so much time and we have committed since day one. We have a small panel and we are a little family and we never, ever wanted this to happen. We just want to play,” she went on.
The players issued their statement through the GPA in response to the Co Board’s message to the players’ WhatsApp Group to say they were withdrawing the team from the All Ireland Intermediate Championships.
A formal agreement, a GPA Charter, was signed at the start of the year by the GPA Representative on the Kildare panel, Niamh Hegarty, Co Board and Management Team representatives which set out minimum standards to be met for the county panel. The players felt that these standards were not being met.
“We had a meeting after training in Hawkfield prior to our final League game against Carlow in Abbotstown. We were using one dressing room but then we had to move to another one with lads gear all over the floor. We always train on Pitch 4 in Hawkfield, we don’t have dressing rooms, we change in cars and bring our bags onto the field. We can’t shower after training maybe at 9.30pm at night,” the captain claimed.
It is known that Kildare GAA Co Board, which owns Hawkfield, would dispute this assertion.
“Also we don’t have Liaison Officer from the Co Board,” Lea Sutton added.
According to the team captain the Co Board put out email to clubs after the second round of league games that inter county players were not allowed play in those games. “The panel met with the full Co Board and voiced our concerns over the league situation and other issues such as the GPA Charter. We felt after that meeting that a bit of progress had been made. It was agreed to permit the panel to play league games under certain criteria. Niamh Hegarty, vice captain, Sinead O’Brien and myself continued communication with two reps of the Co Board”
“We were really working well together because at the end of the day they operate on a voluntary basis and the main goal is to play hurling. They want us to be successful and we want to be successful but they are not providing the correct platform to achieve these goals. We just want the minimum standards. It seemed like they were understanding of it and that we were progressing but then then we were informed that we were pulled from the Leinsters and then nothing until Friday last,” Lea Sutton tells us.
The players contend that although training was organised for Tuesdays and Thursdays it was later cancelled until a meeting of the Co Board Executive was held.
“There are some senior clubs on the county panel but the majority of players are from, intermediate or junior clubs so we are of a lower standard but want to improve ourselves and want the county to have better standards. Nobody expected this to grow that the whole nation is talking about it. A lot of clubs in Kildare have a higher standard than the county panel has,” she said.
“We’d love to represent Kildare this year, we’d love nothing more than to get back out on the field. We are a family, we get on so well but we wouldn’t be prepared for the championship.”
“We are hoping that our voices are heard this year but if not for this year then for future years. We want the clubs and players in Kildare to realise we are serious about what we are doing. We only want to improve, to be competitive in every year that we are playing. We want to progress and be the best players that we can be and in order to do so we want to be given the tools to do that,” the captain concluded.
The Kildare Camogie Co Board have so far remained silent on the matter.