LIMERICK’S most decorated ladies footballer Dymphna O’Brien has withdrawn from the inter-county squad in protest at the handling of her club’s request for a re-grading.
Gerald Griffins had requested to be removed from the senior championship but when that was voted down recently, O’Brien dropped herself off the panel. She is the only player from the club involved with Limerick but her decision will come as a massive blow to the county ahead of the upcoming All Ireland intermediate championship.
The ace attacker was honoured as Limerick’s only ladies football All-Star in 2006 and in the same year she represented Ireland at International Rules level and for the last decade has been an ever present at inter-provincial level with Munster.
O’Brien was a central figure two seasons ago when Limerick won a first ever adult championship title - beating Louth to win the All-Ireland junior championship.
The Gerald Griffins player has spear-headed the fortunes of the county side for the last 14 years - making her first start with the Limerick junior ladies football team at the age of just 14.
Now the 28-year-old corner forward has brought an end to her inter-county career in a stance against the Limerick County Board.
“How can I play for Limerick when myself and my club Gerald Griffins don’t have the backing of the County Board or the majority of clubs in Limerick,” a disappointed Dymphna O’Brien said this week.
Last month O’Brien scored 1-2 in the Division Four league final defeat to Longford and it now appears that the league decider could be her final game in the Limerick colours as Ann Eagers’ side prepare for the start of next month’s All-Ireland intermediate championship.
At the start of this season Gerald Griffins outlined to Limerick ladies football officials that they would not be in a position to field a team at senior club level in 2012 due to a lack of players.
“I’m not even sure if we would have had a team even if we were intermediate or junior. We lost a whole lot of players and so many of the girls now are just too young,” outlined O’Brien.
“I played with Limerick during the league because I thought the club were going to be re-graded and that’s as much as we could have hoped for,” she explained.
“I have given so much to Limerick over the years and this is what happens. I just can’t continue to play when the club is being treated like this,” said O’Brien.
The dispute materialised at the April Limerick Ladies Football County Board meeting, when the Gerald Griffins request was voted upon.
Shane Florish is the Limerick Ladies Football Board chairman.
“It was a decision that was taken by the County Board and that is not the people at the top table it’s the clubs of the county. It was voted upon and it was voted 14 to 1 that Gerald Griffins not be allowed to re-grade,” explained the chairman.
“It was felt that they had spent their time at the top and still had 23 players registered this season and if they were able to play junior that they could just as well play senior,” outlined Florish.
“It wasn’t my decision or any member of the top table it was a decision taken by all the clubs that were present at the meeting. Then it went national to a centre council meeting, which I went to and put forward the decision that the clubs of the county had made”, he outlined.
An email sent to the secretaries of all county boards, angered O’Brien.
“This is a matter of form and something we would have done if we were looking for a rule change or anything else at Central Council,” explained the chairman, who pointed out that Gerald Griffins contested the 2011 county senior final, losing to St Ailbes.
A sporting all-rounder O’Brien has also excelled at both soccer and camogie. A key member of the Killeedy camogie side, she has also been a regular on the Limerick camogie team through the last decade. O’Brien’s list of honours in ladies football include one Munster Junior championship, a Munster U-16 and U-14 championship, a Munster and All-Ireland Junior Club title and an All-Ireland skills title.