Saturday 19 January 2019

Championship timing doesn't allow teams to prepare

David Goulden

A frustrated Dave Cummins has called for accountability in the way the underage game is structured.

The Sligo under-20 manager who has been in charge of the current batch of players since under-14, says there is plenty of potential in the county to win underage titles.

But he says that promise won't be realised until the timing of competitions is set in a more player-friendly manner.

The former St Mary's man, who saw his team lose out to Roscommon in the Connacht Championship quarter-final at the weekend, says the timing of the competition, mixed with the pressure of exams and travel didn't help with his team's preparations.

Sligo hit a total of 15 wides in a game which could have swung the other way on a different day. Cummins feels the lack of games and opportunities to fine-tune his attack in the lead up to the game, played to Sligo's disadvantage.

He also says he'd like whoever came up with the idea of the current structure to come forward and explain their reasoning.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's defeat, Cummins outlined: "What killed us this year was lots of things. We probably didn't get the opportunity to play enough matches where players are tested to the nth degree.

"You can fix mistakes you see with every match that goes by so, as we were playing the limited number we were allowed play, we were getting our kick-out, defensive and midfield structures set up and sometimes your forward line is the last to get sorted.

"Sligo is small pool. We have 22 clubs. I'm not giving out about the boys who are with the seniors because I'm delighted for them, I've had them since we were under 14. But I'd like the person who set up this competition to put their name to it.

"Never mind everything else, we had guys who couldn't commit because of the Leaving Cert. We were only allowed play matches on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays and most of our guys are in Dublin in college.

"So I'm asking guys to travel from Dublin mid-week to play matches. Roscommon would have seen us had we played in the midlands so we have to go up north and that's adding two/three hours travel to lads who are studying for exams.

"They're not allowed to play many matches in April so you've to play in May. But in May everybody's doing exams! So if we get one thing out of this, it's that somebody puts their name to this. That's all I'm asking.

"What's to stop lads playing in February or March before the club season gets going as long as there's common sense with other guys playing college football? There has to be a common sense approach!"

Cummins believes the Yeats County has the talent to challenge for honours at youth level. But the natural progression of players towards the senior panel isn't helping. Cummins is understanding and accepting of this but no less frustrated.

"No matter the size of your county it's still 15 against 15. How many guys will be under 22 on the Sligo senior panel this year? You add two or three next year and the following year. There are three or four serious county players being developed each year. The down side is that we probably don't get enough together to win an underage title."

On the game itself, Dave was full of praise for his team's spirit but admitted the number of wides his often mis-firing team notched up, played a crucial role.

"In the first half, two goals up, we had lots of chances to put the game beyond Roscommon. You don't give that good an opposition that many chances (to come back in to it) because if you don't take it, every time you walk back out, they're elated, we're a little bit down and that eventually drains you of energy.

"And that's what happened. We went in one point down and we should have been ten points up.

"The goal in the second half is then totally different. You set up differently. We're disappointed we died for about ten minutes and gave up a bit of fight after one of their goals. But all credit to us, we kept fighting.

"We have talent coming through and that showed in the first half. But you have to be grittier and when opportunities arrive we have to take them. Simple as that!"

Sligo Champion