Burnout fear sees clubs pull U-16s out of Kildare side
Concern over the demands placed on U-16s in Kildare has led to two leading clubs withdrawing players from the county squad for the Fr Manning Cup competition.
Moorefield and Sarsfields may be big rivals around Newbridge but are united in the belief that the schedule of some of their top U-16 footballers is unsustainable. They have responded by not making players available to the county team for the Fr Manning Cup (U-16 inter-county competition).
"We're not happy with the workload our young players are being asked to take on. You wouldn't ask senior players to play two games in two days and young lads shouldn't have to do it either," said former Kildare star Sos Dowling, who is in charge of Moorefield's U-16s.
Kildare were due to play Roscommon in the Fr Manning Cup in Kiltoom yesterday evening and will be in action again next Wednesday against Offaly. However, Kildare U-16 championship games have been fixed for tomorrow and tomorrow week.
That left the top players from various clubs with an inter-county and a club championship fixture inside 48 hours in successive weeks, a schedule which has brought matters to a head.
"This happened last year and we were told it would never happen again, but now we find it's the same this year. It's not fair to ask lads to play for their county on a Wednesday evening and for their clubs on a Friday evening. We keep hearing about burnout and the pressure on young players especially, yet this sort of thing continues to happen," said Dowling.
He has taken the Moorefield squad up from U-14 level and feels a responsibility to ensure that they are well looked after. That includes not subjecting county panellists to heavy demands at an important time in their development.
"Naturally, lads want to play for the county but they should not have to do that on a Wednesday and then turn out for the club on a Friday. Players of all ages – and especially young lads – will hide knocks if they can because they want to play all the time but they can store up trouble by doing it. If lads are wanted for the Fr Manning Cup, they should not be asked to play for their clubs two evenings later. Fixtures should be planned better than that," said Dowling.
He has strong views on the welfare of young players, suggesting that minors should only be allowed to play senior in their final year at U-18 level.
"Young players need to be given a chance to develop at their own pace. They should not be thrown in at senior level until they are physically ready for it. Burnout has been talked about for a long time but it's still there. That's why the demands on our U-16s (in Kildare) is an issue. No-one wants to stop lads playing for their county but we have to be responsible too."