Laois ladies suffered their sixth consecutive defeat of this year’s NFL Division One and were relegated to Division Two after a 5-15 to 1-10 loss to Tyrone on Sunday.
Speaking after the game, Laois senior manager Christy Dunphy admitted that Laois need to take affirmative action to ensure they return to being a competitive force in intercounty football. “At the end of the day, Laois underperformed in this year’s league and at this point in time Laois don’t have the quantity or the quality of players to compete in the top flight.
“We have accepted that Laois are in transition and it’s a whole building process to get back to where we once were six or seven years ago. We have to develop a process now that will help flourish our younger players and we have to revisit senior players who are not in a position to play due to work, college and other commitments at this time.
“At the moment for Laois to field a team they are depending mainly on girls at minor and u-21 level with a number of established players; Martina Dunne, Grainne Dunne, Mags Murphy, Martha Kirwan, Noirin Kirwan and Alison Taylor who continue to be 100% committed to the cause. There appears to be a huge gap between the ages of 21 to 25 on the current panel. Women in that age bracket are playing with their clubs but they don’t seem to have the desire to play at inter county level, and we need to address this.
“After the performance in this year’s league, it is certain that a forum is required with the Laois senior management and players of senior clubs in Laois to discover the reasons why they aren’t playing with their county. While we are disappointed with the league performance, perhaps going forward Division Two is the best place to start to rebuild a team”.
Laois play Westmeath in the first round of the Championship in eight weeks time. Christy continues. “A number of players have pledged to play for the Championship who weren’t available to play for the league. It’s not going to be an easy process and nobody ever expected that it would be.
“It’s fair to say that many of the people who came in to help out this year were not aware of the state of Laois ladies football; the lack of ambition in players to represent their county being most notable. With that said, we must compliment the girls who stepped up to the mark today; Liz Brophy, Orla Carroll, Grainne Moran and Claire O’Connell all accepted a late call this weekend to represent their county knowing fully what the circumstances were and what was ahead of them.
“Without their effort today Laois would not have finished the League and could have faced being excluded from the Championship. This gesture by the girls shows that pride still exists within the county and we plan to restore it over the coming years. Also we need to endorse the need and necessity for parents to step up to the breach when required to support the girls playing at county level.
In addition, the appointment of Laura-Marie Maher as captain has proven to be an excellent decision. Her leadership skills and qualities as a person was called upon in every regard against Tyrone and she excelled in every department. Laois are very lucky to have that quality of a person to captain Laois in the coming year”.
Chairperson of Laois ladies county board, Mary Wheatley, admitted to being disappointed with the current state of affairs, but is hopeful of an improvement. “I’m disappointed, but what’s happened has happened. Christy, with the help of Pat Ryan has agreed to manage Laois for three years and this is very positive. This allows us to develop a structure within the county at underage and this will continue onto senior level.
“We have the players, some very good individual players but trying to bring them together is what’s most difficult right now. Initiatives like the Fight Night (on May 2nd in Portarlington GAA centre) are centred on bringing players together for the good of their clubs and the county. We’ve identified where the problems lie in Laois and we are trying our utmost to rectify them”. Ending on a positive, Wheatley adds with a smile “Let’s not forget that we won out Division Two in 2001 and went on to win the All-Ireland that September”.