Poc Fada winner accuses Ulster GAA of sexism

Catherine McGourty, who competed in the Ulster GAA Poc Fada competition on Monday
Catherine McGourty, who competed in the Ulster GAA Poc Fada competition on Monday

The captain of the Ulster camogie team last night spoke of her shock at the GAA's "sexist" treatment of women in a major competition.

Catherine McGourty described how the male winner of the Ulster GAA Poc Fada won a trophy and a skiing holiday, while she walked away with just a medal.

The PE teacher from Kircubbin, Co Down took part in the demanding event on Hen Mountain, just outside Hilltown, on Monday where the male and female provincial champions were crowned.

The annual event "celebrates talented hurlers and camogs across Ulster" and sends winners to compete for the All-Ireland title next month.

After completing the course in 25 pucks, Patrick McKillion from Tyrone claimed the senior men's title and won a medal, trophy and a skiing holiday.

But Ms McGourty, who picked up the female title after coming out on top with 35 pucks, was only awarded a medal.

The difference in awards provoked criticism on social media, with another female competitor among those to vent her frustration.

Eleanor Mallon wrote: "Unbelievable. The female @UlsterGAA @GAAPocFada champion got a medal. Her male counterpart got a ski holiday! Is it still 1935? #Disgrace".

Ms McGourty, who plays for Ballycran GAC and was this year's Ulster camogie captain, told The Irish News she was shocked by the treatment of female competitors.

"I've been playing senior county camogie for about 16 years, but have never entered the Poc Fada before," she said.

"This year no-one had entered from the Down Poc Fada and I was asked to enter, so I said I would.

"We went round the course the exact same route as the men, we were actually following them around the route.

"In camogie, we play a size four ball, but when we got there, we found they only had size 5 so we all, male and female, played the exact same.

"When we got back into the Clonduff club rooms, it was then in the speech before the prizes were given out that I first heard about the skiing holiday and that it would only be going to the male winner.

"Eleanor, who also went round the course too, shouted out it wasn't fair and we were told it was to do with the sponsor. But they didn't say anything else, no explanation was given at all.

"It's the principle of it, the Ulster GAA should not be doing this, we did the exact same route as the men so I'm disappointed in the way we have been treated.

"We aren't trying to take away from the winner. He didn't ask for the prize and I didn't even know there was a skiing holiday to win beforehand, so that's not why I entered.

"But it came as a shock that they can do this, it's totally sexist."

In a statement, Ulster Camogie last night said the men's prize was organised by the GAA centrally along with two sponsors.

"For the last 10 years Ulster GAA and Ulster Camogie have organised a series of events to jointly promote hurling and camogie throughout the province," it said.

"The O'Neill's Ulster GAA Poc Fada is organised by Ulster GAA on an annual basis with endorsement and support from Ulster Camogie. Both male and female competitors take part in separate competitions and Ulster GAA does not put up a prize other than medals for the any of the winners.

"The Central GAA in conjunction with two sponsors organised a prize for the Senior Men's Poc Fada winner and this falls outside the remit of the Camogie Association and the Ulster bodies."

Both Ms McGourty and Mr McKillion now progress to represent Ulster in the National Poc Fada on August 1 in the Cooley Mountains in Co Louth.

Asked if she would consider pulling out of the All-Ireland competition, Ms McGourty said: "I think I'll compete, but if we had of known that this would happen, maybe some of us wouldn't have competed."