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Tyrone GAA in an historic bid to give ladies equal footing

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone ladies' football manager Gerry Moane has revealed that the county board could be about to make history by bringing ladies' football and camogie under the GAA banner.

At present, the codes of ladies' football and camogie are self-governed with their own boards and structures. But a move for them to come under the GAA umbrella would ensure ladies playing their respective sports parity of esteem with men's Gaelic football and hurling, granting them equal rights to facilities, pitches and other essentials.

In a move that would have huge ramifications for the rest of the GAA, it would do away with any number of potential points of conflict for the game.

Last year, for example, the Tyrone ladies were treated as 'tenants' when they trained in the Garvaghey GAA Centre and were not given post-training meals - unlike the men's senior football team, who train there with no cost and are provided with meals afterwards.

Some clubs have already adopted this course of action with a 'one-club' model but, if Tyrone follow suit, it would surely lead to greatly enhanced conditions for ladies playing Gaelic games, while also putting pressure on other county boards to do likewise.

"I am a great believer that these things should come from the top down. In my personal opinion, there isn't enough push from the top to get that," said Moane.

"But there are moves here in Tyrone, and Tyrone I always say are innovative and don't have to wait for others.

"I would be hoping they would move ahead and be ahead of everybody else."

Asked how Tyrone could negotiate this, he replied: "There's nothing to stop them. Why can't we come in under the one family?

"This is the GAA family in Tyrone, there is nothing to stop Tyrone from doing that. Yes, there are hurdles in the way, but there is an integration committee working away to try and get that closer.

"The ladies need direction from Croke Park and everybody in Croker needs to get their heads together and get that pushed along. But there are moves afoot in Tyrone to move along on their own, which would be very encouraging."

Moane is on the sidelines for his second All-Ireland Intermediate final in two years this Sunday against Meath.

After last year's defeat to Tipperary, the Red Hand ladies have swept their way to the decider again with two thumping wins over Wicklow and Offaly.

They had a tighter encounter against Wexford, winning 1-15 to 2-8, and a late Sligo push in the semi-final had them clinging on for a 3-14 to 3-10 win.

While Moane warns of Meath's "formidable forwards", who ran up 3-18 against Roscommon, they are better placed this year.

Part of that is down to work behind the scenes by Moane to get the best players in the county involved, and they are in their second full year of conditioning under the guidance of former All-Star Sarah Connolly.

"That sort of strength and conditioning work is a three-to-five-year project and it should be started earlier, at minor level, but that is a work in progress," explained Moane.

"It takes time to develop it. Yes, you will see a bit of a change and you will continue to see signs of it in years to come, it's an ongoing progress. It's 12 months a year if you want to be competitive and have ambitions to play senior football. If you are not doing it, then you are going to be left behind."

Last year's All-Ireland ladies' finals day was the best attended ladies' finals in any sport in 2017. The 46,286 in Croke Park easily beat the next biggest of 35,271 at the Women's FA Cup final.

The senior final between Dublin and Mayo was one of the most physical games played among ladies, with Moane pointing out that quality as being essential as Tyrone bid to move up to senior level for 2019.

"We have the footballers and the skill-set, but you need the strength and conditioning and that is not done overnight. That is a long-term project and that's why I put it in place in October 2016, and insisted upon the longevity for it, and I make no apologies for it," he added.

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