New push to play minors as under-17s competition
MOMENTUM behind a move to make the minor football a grade for U-17s instead of U-18s will gather pace in the coming weeks when it is expected to be presented as a central strand in the second part of the Football Review Committee's findings on the state of Gaelic football.
Having offered a series of recommendations around the playing rules of the game last December, the FRC set aside its findings on fixtures for 12 months because of the load involved but have been finalising another document for publication in early December.
Based on the findings from the survey of some 4,000 who responded, the FRC have been looking for solutions that could help avoid the endless clashes that occur between club, county, college and even country games, and taking a year off minor grade eligibility is thought to be a key component.
The GAA's games development department have already been examining such a move, with evidence that more 18-year-olds now sit the Leaving Cert exams pointing them in the direction of an U-17 competition, which would alleviate the problems that regularly crop up for this age group.
The FRC are restricted to making recommendations about Gaelic football only, but something like this could be incorporated into hurling too.
Under the probable recommendation any minor player would be precluded from playing adult games for his club or county, which could solve a number of problems. It would allow 'minor' and adult competitions to be played simultaneously, which would be a big help at club level.
Such a move to restrict participation at adult level would impact on smaller clubs with less population to draw from but the advantages, given the change of age profile of Leaving Cert students, may outweigh the disadvantages.
The FRC are unlikely to propose any similar changes around the U-21 grade but may look at the scheduling of this competition during the busiest stretch of the year. Moves six years ago to merge the minor and U-21 competitions into one U-19 competition failed under the weight of opposition.
The FRC are also looking at formulating recommendations around freeing up more time for club activity, especially in the month of July.
Some 60pc of club players who responded to the surveys conducted by the FRC in the summer of 2012 expressed dissatisfaction with the club championships that they were involved in.
The problem is stalled club championships, with later conclusions in most counties. After the first weekend of October this year only six senior county football finals had been played.
Many counties who were knocked out of the qualifiers at the end of June still didn't have their championship concluded 16 weeks later.
The second strand of the FRC's findings is expected to be much less radical than those that have led to the imminent introduction of the black card to deal with cynical play.
The National Referees Committee will launch their nationwide information drive next week on the black card and other new rules being introduced in 2014.