Thursday 21 September 2017

U-17 senior limit 'would help players in long run'

Micheal Martin, Chairman of the Minor Review Work Group, speaking during the Liberty Insurance GAA Annual Games Development Conference
Micheal Martin, Chairman of the Minor Review Work Group, speaking during the Liberty Insurance GAA Annual Games Development Conference
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It may not be generating the same profile as some of the other motions being ventilated at Congress in Cavan this weekend but it is still one which has potentially far-reaching consequences.

In fact, bundled with the other four motions being moved by the Minor Review Committee, they could represent some of the most meaningful steps yet in the GAA's battle to curb the potential of burnout among young players.

Enshrining into rule that no under 17 can play at adult level may have an impact for smaller clubs in rural areas where there is significant depopulation.

But one of the architects of the proposed rule says it is being done for the right reasons.

Micheal Martin, who chaired the Review Committee, accepts the argument will be made that some clubs will be more affected by this rule than others, if it is passed.

But he stressed yesterday that any evidence they had during the course of their research suggested the impact would be very minimal.

"We looked at the situation in a lot of counties. Eamonn O'Sullivan from Kerry was involved in our committee and we did extensive research on that county. What we got back was that the impact would be very small if u-17s were excluded from adult teams," he said.

"Kerry themselves brought out a minor review a few years ago and we analysed that. The conclusions drawn in both reviews were very similar."

Martin says the aim is to protect the best young players in that age group from excessive exposure and by drawing a line at the age of 17 they could well be preserving those players to play with their clubs for a much longer period.

"We don't believe what we are proposing will have the effect of preventing clubs from fielding teams," he said.

"If it's passed it won't come in until 2016 so there is time to prepare for it and work on retaining older players for a little longer or maybe work on preventing other players from falling off," he said.

"We would be hoping that by implementing this rule those players will stay on with us until they are well into their 30s."

Their proposal to give preference to players involved in post-primary schools squads over inter-county minor squads has not been well received in some quarters.

Sustainable

Martin said they found that some players were either training or playing 10 times in seven days at particular times of the year.

"We found evidence of players training with their schools at 4.0pm and they were then out with their county minor squads that evening at 7.30pm. It just isn't sustainable."

He said the crossover period between minor and post-primary will be smaller if proposals before Central Council to conclude post-primary competitions earlier are accepted.

Martin said they opted not to propose changing minor competition to U-17 from U-18 because they didn't think it would have the necessary support.

He did, however, state that four counties would undertake pilot programmes over the next three years to run their main competitions at under 13, 15 and 17 level with an U-19 competition also mooted.

"From the feedback we got we just didn't think the support would be there for minor to switch to U-17. But it's something we will monitor."

The committee are also proposing the abolition of All-Ireland quarter-finals in the minor championship which has given counties the scope to lose two games yet still reach semi-finals.

Some of the hardest-hit clubs may be out west where amalgamations have become commonplace.

Martin Barrett, the current manager of Kiltane, says he can see merit in the proposal but still feels there will be an impact, particularly in north Mayo.

"There are clubs up here who would struggle to progress without a really good 17-year-old that would be available to them.

"We have a player, Tommy Conroy, who was with us last year when we reached the All-Ireland intermediate final and he played with us as a 17-year-old because he was so good. We wouldn't have reached an All-Ireland final without him," said Barrett.

"But it's a different game now than it was when I was a player. The difference in strength and athleticism of a player in his 20s by comparison to a 17-year-old is immense.

"I can see where they are coming from even though I feel it will have an impact in certain parts."

Irish Independent

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