*Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
GAA players are being lost at club level due to the gap from U17 to U21 while appeals to delay the start of the U21 club championship have been made.
Corofin GAA club have asked Clare GAA not to start the U21 championships until all adult competitions are concluded.
Speaking at a structures meeting of Clare GAA, Chairman of the County Board, Kieran Keating stated, “my own view is that it is not workable. Fixture analysts won’t be able to run off all competitions if their hands are tied”.
Chairman of Corofin, Brian Gillespie felt it would be “beneficial” if the fixtures for the group stages of the competition were not made until closer to the time “so they could facilitate a time if they are in a semi-final or final of an adult competition that they get a bye in the first round to give them some leeway. We all know this year teams were weakened by the lack of senior players involved”.
Keating responded, “that is something to be debated at a time when we’re debating the regulations for the U21 championship rather than something to set in stone”.
Ger Lyons, Ruan’s delegate concurred with the spirit expressed by Corofin. “It is a fantastic championship in both codes but unfortunately it has been shoehorned into a certain time of year and it has been devalued”. He suggested, “we will have to look at some other opportunity, maybe in the summer time to play the competition at that stage, the standard is excellent and it is a good competition but it has been shoehorned and it has been devalued”.
“You arguing against yourself there to a degree,” Keating noted. He told the meeting that the U21 championship started three weeks before the Junior A football championship was finished and he advised that the competition would be “more shoehorned and put into a tighter window” if they waited until all adult competitions had concluded before commencing the U21. “Clubs with players on inter-county teams won’t want to play in June or July and understandably so while clubs with lads on J1s won’t want to play without them,” the Chairman explained.
Chairman of St Breckan’s, Aidan McDermott highlighted, “The gap from U17 to U21 needs to be addressed, we are losing players from U17-U21, it is a serious issue”. This according to Keating was “an issue for another day”.
Conall McNulty of the Banner GAA club queried what was the causing “the rush” to play off the U21 championships. He said, “It is very hard for the dual players, they are going Saturday and Sunday, Saturday and Sunday every week”.
Worsening weather in the month of December, attempts by the Clare U20 hurling and football squads to get organised so that they are ready to go after Christmas were among the reasons cited by Keating in response. “There is no ideal way of doing it, you will have problems some way or another”.
Addressing the meeting, Clare GAA Head of Operations, Deirdre Murphy said clubs were “very clear” they wanted the competitions wrapped up earlier. “It is not that there is any particular drive from the Board, the feedback of still playing the games in the worst of the weather and in the middle of doing the Christmas shopping wasn’t ideal”.