Meath All Star footballer Monica McGuirk presenting the Girls Div Shield Final Spirit of the Final award to Caitlin Nic Roibin, Gaelscoil na Rithe in 2019 with Conall Collier, Sports Editor, Meath Chronicle and Caroline Gibbons, PRO, Meath Cumann na mBunscol. Photo: John Quirke

Growing games for our girls - the growing success of Cumann na mBunscol

Cumann na mBunscol is the National Federation of Primary Schools promoting Gaelic Games in an educational context. Its main aim is to promote Gaelic games in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment and to make Gaelic Games the games of choice for boys and girls in Primary Schools.

The Meath Board of Cumann na mBunscol was first established back in 1979 with the introduction of competitive camogie taking place in 1981 and a football competition for girls beginning in 1991. Rounders, Cross Country and Track & Field competitions were introduced at later stages. Initially all competitions had small entries and low participation levels from girls’ teams.

Every year since has seen an increase in participation and interest from schools wanting to compete in girls’ competitions. Games for girls are organised in equal capacity to boys, they are given equal opportunity to compete in all codes, inter-county competitions, mini sevens, and athletics.

Football for girls was not very popular when it was first set up and the competition was initially run as a one-day blitz being won by Carlanstown N.S. in its first year. Further competitions and divisions were added to cater for the increased interest shown by schools with 5 divisions now competing each year and most schools across the county entering more girls’ teams each year.

In 2019, approximately 3,000 pupils from schools in Co Meath participated in our games. 75 girls’ football teams took part whilst 21 camogie teams participated, almost equal amounts as their male counterpart teams.

In all codes of our games, we have also seen a huge increase in the amount of women involved in the leadership, coaching and organisation of the competitions.

More female teachers have become involved in coaching both male and female teams within schools. Five female teachers are currently represented on the Cumann na Mí Executive Board and many more volunteer as referees and group organizers for competitions every year.

Teaching staff have entered schools and continue to drive the GAA ethos amongst girls’ teams to the extent that nearly every school within the county has some involvement for their girls’ teams.

With regards to participation, most girls take part in sport at some level in Primary School and thankfully we have seen an increase in girls participation levels over the past few years. We have worked hard to support this by expanding our games outside the county by organizing blitzes with other Leinster counties.

The involvement of Meath Coaching and Games has also helped our games evolve with weekly coaching taking place in schools. Girls participate on an equal basis to boys as the coaching supports inclusive involvement for everyone.

We all continue to enjoy the growing popularity of girls’ games at Cumann na mBunscol level. Role models are all around us in the Meath Ladies Football Team, the Meath Camogie Team, Paralympic athlete Kerrie Leonard, Olympic pentathlete Natalya Coyle and runner Sarah Louise Treacy who represented Moynalvey NS at Cumann na mBunscol level. Many pupils also look up to their mentors at school who coach them all year round and support their dream to one day represent Meath on the bigger stage in camogie, football and athletics.

The future is bright for our rising female stars from the Royal County!