The Women’s Gaelic Players Association (WGPA) was formally launched on Tuesday January 20th 2015 at a reception in the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. The event was very well attended, most notably by current and past players from all four provinces, representatives of national governing bodies in sport, public and commercial representatives, and a large body of national and regional media. Aoife Lane, Chairperson of the WGPA, opened proceedings and there were also contributions from players Kate Kelly and Valerie Mulcahy and Jacqui Hurley from RTE. The main message of the morning was that the WGPA has been set up to represent, listen to, and support ladies footballers and camogie players who represent their county at the highest level in their sport.
It was emphasised that county players are the front door to our sports; they represent the best of what our games have to offer and should drive progress, marketing, communication, and development while also being facilitated and supported to progress and achieve beyond the sporting domain. The WGPA ensured that they would commit to improving the playing, personal and professional lives of our members while also promoting players as role models and advocates for our games.
This new players association has been set up by players, will be led by players and will work for players. Players are taking responsibility for the issues they experience at county level, recognising that if we want change then action is required. We are committed to making things better for ladies footballers and camogie players.
The founding executive was chaired by Aoife Lane and included Fiona McHale (Secretary), Kate Kelly (Treasurer), Deirdre Murphy, Valerie Mulcahy, Anna Geary and Gemma Begley. Read more about them below
Dr Aoife Lane, a native of Ballinderreen in Galway, was the founder and first chair of the WGPA from 2014 to 2019. Aoife is Head of Department of Sport & Health at Athlone Institute of Technology. Aoife completed the BSc in Sport and Exercise Science in University of Limerick before undertaking a Masters in Health Promotion in NUI Galway and a PhD in Physical Activity in Irish Women in WIT. Aoife has lectured in Physical Activity and Health, Research Methods, Statistics, Epidemiology, and GAA Coaching. Aoife is a member of the Galway GAA Health and Wellbeing Committee and is a Connacht representative on the National GAA Health and Wellbeing group. Her particular interest is in using sport as a setting for health promotion for players, clubs, and communities.
Aoife initiated the launch of the association in 2014 along with 6 players, and guided it through its formative years. The aims of the association were informed by research conducted by Aoife and the findings were published in conjunction with the WGPA launch in the ‘Making Things Better’ report. Aoife worked to develop relationships in the areas of business, sport, community and politics to further the aims of the WGPA in supporting players.
Highlights in that period included the roll-out of development programmes for players, the collaboration with the GPA on the Jim Madden Leadership Programme, and the introduction of Government Grants for Ladies Football and Camogie for the first time in 2017. Her invaluable leadership and immense commitment to the work of the association laid solid foundations for continued growth in the years ahead.
Fiona McHale, first secretary to the WGPA, plays club football with Carnacon in Mayo and is the holder of 5 All Ireland club medals. She has also won four O’Connor Cup medals and coached UL to success in this same competition in 2014. Fiona captained the Mayo Ladies team in the 2013 and 2014 seasons and secured her first all-star in 2016. Fiona studied PE & Biology in DCU, has taught in Limerick College of Further Education, before returning to undertake a PhD in Physical Activity & Health. Fiona continues to flourish in her coaching career, taking up a role with Claremorris GAA in 2019.
Kate Kelly, treasurer to the WGPA, is a native of St Ibar’s/Shelmaliers in Wexford. She has represented Wexford since the 90’s and is the holder of four All Ireland medals and seven All Star awards and 2 Ashbourne Cup medals. Kate was Camogie Player of the Year in 2007 and was recently named Wexford player of the decade. Kate has also represented Wexford in ladies football and is the holder of 2 club All-Irelands. Kate completed a Business degree and MBA in Waterford Institute of Technology and currently works as Card Services Manager.
Valerie Mulcahy is a native of Rockban in Co Cork. She is the holder of nine All Ireland medals, 10 National Leagues, 10 Munster titles, 1 O’Connor Cup, 1 Club Intermediate All Ireland and 1 Club Junior All Ireland. She has also received a Texaco award and Irish Times, Tatler and Irish Sports Council awards. She is the holder of five All Stars and was selected at number 13 on the LGFA team of the decade. Valerie studied PE in University of Limerick and is currently a PE and Maths teacher in Gaelcholáiste Mhuire, Cork.
Deirdre Murphy is from the Clooney/Quin Camogie club in Clare and currently works as First Year Support Coordinator at UL, after previous roles as GAA Development officer, with the Camogie Association and as a secondary teacher. She completed a Degree in Commerce & German at NUIG and a Higher Diploma in Education also at NUIG (2 Ashbourne Shields & 4 Ashbourne Allstars). Deirdre has played camogie for Clare at adult level since 1997, captaining Clare to Junior All Ireland success in 2008. She also holds All Ireland medals in Camogie and Ladies Football at Intermediate level and Munster titles at Junior, Intermediate and Senior. She has been a Camogie All Star nominee on 6 occasions and was named as Clare Player of the Decade.
Deirdre was instrumental in securing the inaugural Government Grant funding for intercounty female teams, with €1million committed in 2017 to recognise the commitment of players and the role they play in Irish society. She continues to support her club and county through various roles.
Anna Geary was captain of the Cork camogie team that were All Ireland champions in 2014. Anna is the holder of four All Ireland medals, is a four time All Star recipient as well the winner of 2 club all Irelands and Irish Times Sportswoman of the month for September 2014. Anna previously worked as a marketing professional at Dell Software, a Dell Charity Champion, and a Make-A-Wish foundation ambassador. Anna has a Business Degree from the University of Limerick and a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Relations from Cork Institute of Technology.
Anna and has gone on to forge a hugely successful media career, acting as host, commentator, guest coach and participant across a range of programmes and media channels. Her continued personal development also continued, qualifying as a lifestyle coach and now working with a variety of companies, teams and individuals.
Kate Kelly, Valerie Mulcahy and Gemma Begley were also members of the first WGPA Executive team and continue in their roles in 2019. See Executive Team.
Gemma is a native of Carrickmore, and has represented Tyrone since 2004. She was captain of the Ulster team that won the interprovincial competition in 2014 and is the holder of two All Star awards. Gemma studied Business and IT in Queens University Belfast and currently works as a Marketing Executive. She is interested in everything sport and digital and is a regular contributor to the Ladies Football Peil magazine.