Tuesday 27 September 2016

U-21 grade does have some merit but fixtures pile-up cost is too high

Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30

A dejected Steven O'Brien, Tipperary at the final whistle. Nearly half the Tipperary team from Saturday are already playing with the senior side, thereby refuting the claim that U-21 is a training ground for potential seniors
A dejected Steven O'Brien, Tipperary at the final whistle. Nearly half the Tipperary team from Saturday are already playing with the senior side, thereby refuting the claim that U-21 is a training ground for potential seniors

I got a lot of reaction to the recent piece I wrote about doing away with the U-21 competition and instead having an U-19 competition which would replace both U-21 and minor grades.

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Opinion was divided as always in the GAA, but most thought the U-21 "was too good a competition" to get rid of. The GAA never gets rid of any competition!

Of course a wonderful final such as Saturday's game strengthens that argument, but a couple of facts - something GAA people are allergic to - might calm those people down.

For a start, there are 16 counties who only get one U-21 championship game per year and another eight that only get two games.

That is very poor return for the amount of time, expense and effort preparing for the U-21 grade - this year for example the Hastings Cup warm-up series included 16 counties from Kerry to Meath from back in January.

Nearly half the Tipperary team from Saturday are already playing with the senior side, thereby refuting the claim that U-21 is a training ground for potential seniors. They are already seniors!

Throughout Ireland there are probably the guts of a thousand U-21 club and county games played, and they are major sources of fixture congestion, as is the minor grade.

Amalgamating these two grades would be a huge help to fixtures and the players of those ages would still get plenty of football. Leaving Cert students would also be absolved from the torture of training and studying at the same time. Think about it folks!

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