Southern Star Ltd. logo

THE LAST WORD: Cork dual players caught in the middle

June 15th, 2023 9:00 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

THE LAST WORD: Cork dual players caught in the middle Image
Cork dual star Libby Coppinger breaks past Kerry goalkeeper Ciara Butler to score a goal in the early stages of the 2023 Munster football final. (Photo: Paddy Feen)

Share this article

SPARE a thought for Cork’s dual players this week.

Not alone are they caught in the middle of yet another fixture clash this Saturday – the Cork ladies footballers and camogie teams are both in championship action on the same day – but there is also a tug-of-war for these players between their own teams.

Look at how it played out.

On Wednesday morning, the Cork football team for Saturday’s championship opener away to Galway (7.30pm, live on TG4) was circulated, and it featured all four dual players – Libby Coppinger, Hannah Looney, Orlaith Cahalane and Aoife Healy.

It appeared that an agreement was reached between the two Cork camps, with the dual players selected for the footballers.

(With a third dual clash on the way on July 1st, was the thinking that the Cork camogie team would have all four dual players that day?)

The harmony didn’t last too long.

Within an hour, The Southern Star learned that the Cork camogie team also intended to name the four dual players in their starting lineup for their home clash with Down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday (3pm).

There was no compromise or agreement. Both managers, Shane Roynane (football) and Matthew Twomey (camogie), feel they need the four players.

With the dual stars to be named on both sides, it leaves Coppinger, Looney, Cahalane and Healy caught in the middle, days out of huge championship games for the football and camogie teams.

‘The way it’s playing it’s going to be up to the players,’ one well-placed insider told us on Wednesday afternoon.


Both camps will feel they have legitimate reasons to call on the dual players this Saturday. For Cork footballers, Galway away represents the more challenging game, with a match at home to Tipperary to follow. For Cork camogie, Down at home is a must-win game after the Rebels lost their group opener to Galway, plus with eight players injured and one sitting their Leaving Cert, if Twomey had to plan without the four dual stars he is left with just 19 players. The injury list includes Aisling Thompson, Orla Cronin, Pamela Mackey, Katie O’Mahoney, Ciara O’Sullivan, Olivia McAllen, Aisling Egan, Aoife Barrett and Laura Hayes. That’s why the camogie management don’t want to lose Coppinger, Looney, Healy and Cahalane as well. Both camps want these players this Saturday.

This is an absolute mess, and it’s the players who will suffer. For all the talk of player welfare, this is the exact opposite. The players take great pride in their ability to play both codes at the highest level. Instead of dual players being championed and celebrated as the role models they are, they are being ushered down a one-way road to extinction. That’s the reality dual players are facing.

‘Realistically, if they’re trying to push away the dual player and get rid of us, you’re going to lose us from one organisation or the other – or both,’ Hannah Looney warned last week.

The LGFA and Camogie Association fixture making has led to THREE fixture clashes this season. The first came in the Munster championship when the footballers were away to Tipperary and the camogie side was home to Waterford; the dual players were split up that day. Now we have this Saturday’s debacle. And there’s another clash on the cards on July 1st – the camogie team is away to Clare on the same day the footballers are home to Tipperary.

This is placing Cork’s dual players in a very uncomfortable situation. On the week of championship games they are being forced into a choice: football or camogie. 

What has infuriated both camps, too, is that there was wiggle room in the calendar. Why wasn’t one of this Saturday’s games moved to this Sunday? Why wasn’t one of these games played last weekend? The following weekend is free, too, why not move one match? 

‘It’s comical really,’ Twomey blasted. ‘There’s a free weekend the following weekend and they still insist on putting the two games on the same day. I've been involved in camogie for a long time now, it happens so much now that this year it’s taken for granted. Camogie and LGFA, there’s no correspondence between the two.’

Communication between the organisations is key here, but is sadly lacking. It appears too that communication between the Cork football and camogie camps broke down this week, with both camps laying claim to the players for Saturday. Hopefully, this is an issue that is resolved quickly as the players need the channels of communication to be open between both set-ups. Communication is key here, at all levels.

‘People are trying to push away the dual player but we're going to keep doing it down in Cork as long as we can. I think that's what it boils down to, a lack of communication. It's not just in dual fixtures, it's a lack of communication between the two organisations as a whole,’ Hannah Looney explained.

Where is the end game with this? Are the days of inter-county dual players in ladies GAA coming to an end? Given how the players are caught in the middle, is it sustainable?

‘It’s probably pressing the button to say the day of the dual player is gone in the women's side of sport as well as the men’s,’ Twomey admitted.

Perhaps there are some who would prefer to see the end of the dual player; it would be one less headache to deal with. The split-season and tighter calendar is squeezing out dual players, but when there are solutions to the clashes – such as moving a game to a free day – why aren’t the associations working together to make this work? 

Camogie All-Star Libby Coppinger, from St Colum’s, is a terrific role model for local girls and boys in West Cork. She is a key player for both Cork teams. Her talent should be celebrated, not punished. Look at Orlaith Cahalane, from the famous Cahalane dynasty – another great story to celebrate women in sport. Instead, obstacles are being placed in front of them.

If there’s a willingness, there’s a way. Communication is the key.


Share this article

Related content