PLAYING FOOTBALL FOR FUN AND FITNESS
Armagh LGFA Chairperson Sinead Reel is encouraging more clubs to embrace a fun form of ladies gaelic football which is opening the sport up to individuals of all levels of fitness and ability as well as giving past players an outlet to continue taking part in the game they love.
The Gaelic For Mothers and Others (G4M&O) initiative was introduced in 2008 and has been embraced by over 300 clubs across Ireland including a number within the Orchard county such as Silverbridge, Crossmaglen and Wolfe Tones from Derrymacash.
Now 42, fitness fanatic Reel hasn’t played competitively since switching clubs from Killeavy to Silverbridge a few years ago, but enjoys getting her kicks these days from this more relaxed, recreational form of football.
In line with the programme’s ethos, scores aren’t even kept, so there are no winners and losers, and matches take place on reduced-size pitches with a maximum of 11 players per side with unlimited rolling subs and halves of no more than 20 minutes.
As the name of the programme suggests, being a mother isn’t a necessity but participants must be aged 25 or over and not currently registered to play competitively with any club team.
Armagh LGFA recently shared photographs of a G4M&O derby between Reel’s Silverbridge and a Crossmaglen side starring Sharon Duncan, the woman whose winning free-kick against Galway in 2006 earned the Orchard outfit their sole All Ireland final appearance.
Although she has now passed 40 and not played competitive club football even at club level for the best part of a decade, Duncan still looks fantastically fit and young enough to be asked to prove she qualifies for G4M&O on age grounds!
However, while the dazzling Duncan used to be the perfect poster girl for Armagh ladies football as a flashy forward and, along with Orchard supremo Reel, is a celebrity face for G4M&O, everyone who wants to take part is seen as being of equal value.
The recent Armagh LGFA Facebook post stated: “The G4M&O initiative is an innovative way to introduce mothers and other women to playing ladies gaelic football. Mothers often drop their kids to training and call back to collect them, but the LGFA wants to change that.
“The G4M&O initiative sees women playing ladies gaelic football in a fun, non-competitive and social environment. It proves an opportunity for women to get their recommended weekly exercise in a fun way while meeting other mothers in the area.”
The LGFA has helpfully provided a 29-page electronic booklet on its website with useful information which includes a 10-step guide to setting up a G4M&O team and outlining the roles of clubs, coaches and co-ordinators.
It also sets out the mission of the G4M&O programme, which includes: “Offer the chance to be socially active within the community. Serve to create a fun and social dimension to any existing ladies football section in a club.
“Provide women with an opportunity to be physically active within the non-competitive framework of LGFA and to meet and socially interact with other women / mothers in the community or from nearby areas.
“Provide women with the opportunity to play ladies gaelic football recreationally in a non-competitive inclusive environment. Give women from non-LGFA, or indeed non-sporting, backgrounds the chance to start playing ladies gaelic football for fun, fitness or both.
“Provide clubs with new members who may take up volunteer roles with the club in the future. Create awareness of ladies gaelic football in the community,” says the LGFA guide, which can be downloaded.
Alternatively, anyone interested can also contact Armagh LGFA Development Officer Margaret McCorry, who is doing a great job broadening the base of ladies gaelic football in the Orchard county, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Like walking netball and walking football of the soccer variety, G4M&O is ladies gaelic’s way of reaching out to those who might otherwise be lost to the sport when they stop playing or not have found any activity that had appealed properly previously.
Those who take part are a mix of former or lapsed players and brand new recruits to the boots who haven’t played gaelic football before or maybe even any organised team sport, at least in adulthood.
For some newcomers, it may be a first step pathway to taking up competitive gaelic football and for others it is an attractive way to keep playing in retirement and keeping in touch with old friends.
With only a relatively small number of clubs having G4M&O teams at this stage, participation is open to those who remain members of other clubs where they may be past players or have continuing family links.