Ask The Players: What is an acceptable level of physicality in ladies football?

An acceptable level of physicality?

This week we have asked three ladies footballers their opinion on physicality in the ladies game. Is there too much or too little, and how does it affect the sport?

Aoife Flanagan (Fermanagh)

The more

physical you are, the more involved you are.”

1. How does the level of physicality in ladies football affect the game? Is it negative of positive?

In my opinion the level of physicality in ladies’ football is both positive and negative. Positive in that it helps to drive a team on as it shows determination and aggression for the ball. The more physical you are in a game the more involved you are. In order to win your own battles, you have to be more physical than your opponent and refuse to be pushed around. On the other hand, it can be seen as a negative in some cases as ladies Gaelic football is a non-contact sport. Therefore, the level of physicality on match day depends on the referee.

2. Can you think of any examples that support your argument?

There are many examples that support the positives of physicality in ladies’ football. However, the celebration of a turnover is one that we use to echo across the pitch in a game. Whether the turnover involves a swarm of green jerseys around a single player or a one on one, we try as a team to celebrate the turnover like we would a score as it helps to boost the morale while discourage the opponent.

For a negative example, I would have to say the fouling tall people like myself get when tackling a smaller, maybe weaker player. This limits the level of physicality a player can bring to the game as they have to watch and be careful when going in for a tackle. With it being a non-contact sport there are games where all you can do is put pressure on the player with a spread-out stance, again this depends on the referee.

3. Do you think most people share your opinion?

Yes, I think most people would share my opinion with the positives of physicality as the best games I’ve been involved in have had the entire team driving each other on and just even the noise levels on the pitch can change the game and bring that intensity to another level. In saying that there have also been games where we have read the referee and we know how the game will be played. This involved communication across the team so that we know the level of physicality that we must play to.

4. What changes can be made, or should be made to the game to address issues of physicality?

I think ladies’ football should be a contact sport as it would not limit the performance we can give, and it would also give a more free flowing game as it would rule out stoppages for soft frees. In addition to this I think the yellow card sin bin should be abolished and ladies given the same cards as men’s football so that a team is not down a player for 10 minutes.

Niamh Marley (Armagh)

Physicality is fundamental to Gaelic Games

1. How does the level of physicality in ladies football affect the game? Is it negative of positive?

The level of physicality has affected the game massively. Especially within the last 13 years. When I first joined the Armagh at 15 there was no real emphasis on Strength and Conditioning and this was having been asked onto the panel after Armagh’s successful 05/06 campaign. If implemented correctly the physicality offers another dimension to the ladies game. Not only is it fast and open football but we are now able to take the big hits we see in the men’s game. I believe it is important to set high standards as a Ladies football athlete and believe physicality is fundamental to Gaelic Games.

2. Can you think of any examples that support your argument?

Speaking from a purely Armagh perspective, especially last year, as soon as you hit championship and some of the big southern teams like Mayo and Cork the level of physicality is automatically lifted. It’s as if it’s an unspoken rule that you hit and will be hit harder. When we played Cork last year it was end to end it terms of pace, talent, skill and physicality. One didn’t precede the other and they were all on the same level which left it an unbelievable game. It’s all these multifaceted aspects of the ladies game which really competes and challenges the men’s game. Both players and supporters relish in the physicality which makes the game so much more intense and enjoyable to watch.

3. Do you think most people share your opinion?

I genuinely do. So long as players are prepared properly and it stays within the confines of the rules. I know both players and supporters really enjoy the level of physicality. It just adds so many more elements to the ladies game. Having spoken to both men’s and ladies players across all codes and levels they are so impressed by the level of hard work and dedication that is needed to become a modern day ladies football athlete which encompasses the level of physicality we see today.

4. What changes can be made, or should be made to the game to address issues of physicality?

From both a player and coach’s perspective I would have to say the rules regarding physicality have to be specific and consistent across all referees and coaches. Every match changes with every referee in regards to either what is regarded as charging or too much contact for a near hand tackle.

The longer I play football the easier it is for me to know what referees expect in terms of the level of physicality. Otherwise it takes 5/10 minutes of a match to assess what is allowed and by that stage you may either be one tick away from a sin bin or you have allowed the opposition to run straight through uncontested.

I also believe player opinion should be taken into consideration and not purely based on what coaches or referees see if any changes were to be made in terms of the physicality. As long as everyone has a shared understanding of what is accepted and what is not, there is less room for ambiguity. Obviously given my playing style I would prefer the physicality to remain.

But again this comes after years of proper coaching and conditioning and I do feel that if omitted the ladies game would not be as popular as it has been year on year.

Shauna Coyle (Monaghan)

There is an inconsistency as to how referee interprets the rules.”

1. How does the level of physicality in ladies football affect the game? Is it negative of positive?

I think that the game has progressed a lot and there is a lot more strength and conditioning coaching involved. As a team we have got a lot stronger, both in matches and in training. I’ve noticed that in games players used to go down and the game would be stopped in case someone was hurt. That doesn’t happen as much now. Players are better able to take a hard shoulder.

It is a lifestyle choice to play football.

We choose to put extra time in the gym, and that has meant that the game has progressed. So that is a positive. The negative aspect for me is that the rules don’t always match up with where the game has gone to. It is a non contact sport but players are stronger and there is an inconsistency with how the referee interprets the rules.

2. Can you think of any examples that support your argument?

From one game to another you can get different calls. I play wing half back and sometimes I can get called for what I think is a clean tackle. You can get harsh calls when using strength to affect the play. Other times a lot of stuff can be let go. I think it can depends on the match up, if you are marking a smaller faster player you can get different calls than if you are marking a bigger player.

3. Do you think most people share your opinion?

I have often had this conversation with players from club and county. And after the games we would do a post mortem and we always come to the same conclusions. We sometimes play challenge matches and the referee will come up at the start and will explain what the rules are from Croke Park. Those games are always good. The referee is clear about what the rules are, and they are applied well, and the game is able to flow, and you get a real intense game.

At the end of the day we are athletes and we crave that intensity.

4. What changes can be made, or should be made to the game to address issues of physicality?

One option is rule changes, but then you have to decide what rules to change, and what changes are needed. I know from conversations with other players that perhaps what we need is a survey put out to players. I know that the camogs have changed some rules and that has helped their game.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW