Tuesday 22 August 2017

All-Ireland U-17 Championship facing lukewarm response next year

Carlow recorded a fine win over Leitrim in difficult conditions
Carlow recorded a fine win over Leitrim in difficult conditions
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Fears that a special U-18 All-Ireland championship in 2018 would interfere with club activity were behind the decision to add an U-17 competition to the schedule next year.

With the minor age limit set to drop from 18 to 17 years in 2018, following a decision taken at Congress last month, concerns were raised over a particular group of players losing out.

The 'Class of 2018' would not have had a chance to play inter-county minor unless they were good enough to make the teams as 17-year-olds next year.

The original proposal to remedy that was to stage a one-off U-18 championship in 2018.

However, Central Council opted last weekend not to proceed with it, on the basis that it could disrupt club championships.

Instead, they decided to play a special U-17 championship 2017, which is the last year the minor age limit will be 18 years. It will not interfere with club activity as U-17s are prevented from playing senior club. Next year's U-17 championship will be confined to players who are not on the minor squads, which will greatly dilute its impact.

It remains to be seen how counties react to the plan and whether they all enter teams for what is essentially a competition for U-17 players not good enough to get on minor teams.

Talented U-17s almost always made minor teams down through the years, the exception being if a county had an exceptional crop of 18-year-olds.

The better 17-year-olds will be chosen for minor duty next year, leaving much weakened squads available for the one-off competition.

That will be especially noticeable in smaller counties, who have to select from fewer numbers. There's also the financial implications of running U-17 and U-18 squad in the same year.

It could lead to some counties withdrawing from the U-17 championships, rendering them largely irrelevant.

Irish Independent

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