| 10.7°C Dublin

Leinster refute Dublin claims of refusing to switch U-21 tie

DUBLIN U-21 boss Jim Gavin has accused Leinster Council of "disrespecting" U-21 players by forcing them to play so many matches in quick succession at this time of year.

Gavin's understrength team relinquished their All-Ireland U-21 football crown mid-week when suffering a first-round, extra-time defeat by Meath and afterwards he claimed Leinster Council had refused a request to move the game.

However, Leinster Council secretary Michael Delaney has denied that any such approach was made.

"They may have gone to to their own county board seeking a postponement, but no one approached us," Delaney said.

He admitted there would probably have been little Leinster could have done in any case because they are now so tightly constrained by the national fixture list.

Leinster actually introduced mid-week games for their U-21 championship this season to alleviate the congestion on young players at weekends. Delaney stressed the decision was down to the counties themselves.

"They were given various options last autumn and the counties themselves unanimously went for mid-week," he said.

He accepted that playing the U-21 championship at this time of year, in such close proximity to the Sigerson Cup and the All-Ireland club competitions, is forcing some young players into a busy schedule.

"There is an awful lot of young players playing three or four games a week at the moment, which is not what you'd want," he conceded.

"But we are tied down to running our U-21 football at this time of year ever since it was decided nationally that the U-21 championship has to end by late April to early May.

"Again, that was a decision the counties made themselves at national level.

"We have sat down with the Comhairle Ard Oideachais (the third-level colleges' body) and ensured that our fixtures alternate and don't clash directly but unless their competitions were played earlier in the year, or the U-21s run later, there is nothing we can do.

"From the Council's point of view we would actually love to play our U-21 championship on Wednesday nights in the middle of June or July, games like that in the height of summer would be a huge attraction. But our hands are tied, we have to slot our games into the national schedule."

Gavin hit out at the GAA's fixture-makers for "burying their heads in the sand" over the overcrowded schedule at this time of year.

It is particularly problematic for U-21 players and makes a mockery of the GAA's initiative ('closed season' in winter) to avoid burnout.

He also objected to Kilmacud Crokes pulling three players -- Craig Dias, Eoin Culligan and Mark Coughlan -- from his panel ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final against Crossmaglen.

"I can understand where Kilmacud were coming from but I don't agree with it, we were missing three first-team players, it was a massive challenge for us," he said.

Dublin's U-21 defenders James McCarthy and Sean Murray were in action for the county seniors last weekend, when Darragh Nelson also came off the bench, and Gavin felt such a hectic schedule had taken its toll physically.

"Meath were a better team on the night... they are deserved winners," he said. "But if you're talking about player welfare this is an example of how not to treat players."

Irish Independent