Tuesday 20 August 2019

All-Ireland hero Fenton shows why U21 grade needed, insists Farrell

Dublin's Brian Fenton
Dublin's Brian Fenton
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

GPA chief Dessie Farrell has raised many "concerns" over the recommendations made in the discussion paper on Player Overtraining and Burnout and the GAA Fixtures Calendar.

Farrell has a vested interest, with his GPA role and also as Dublin U-21 manager, and the abolition of that grade is proving to be a major bone of contention.

While praising some proposals and welcoming the debate, the 1995 All-Ireland winner expects the deck to be stacked against players from weaker clubs.

"If you're playing senior football with your club then it's more likely you'll get to play senior county because the exposure you're getting to quality football is higher," he noted.

"It would ask serious questions of players like Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton, how do they get picked or spotted after minor? Opportunities will be rare.

"Some county managers won't have the resources to attend all these club games and identify those types of guys."


All-Ireland final man of the match Fenton was highlighted as one example of a player who thrived on the unique opportunity the U-21 championship offers.

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"If you look at Brian, he had a great season and it was on the back of the U-21 championship last year," Farrell said.

"That was great for him because it gave him a platform to show what he could do. How he could deal with the stresses of being an elite-level footballer in a high-pressure environment."

A huge gap in "developmental pathways" could be created and having guided the Dubs to 2014 glory, he knows what it means to players.

"For many players it will end at 20 or 21 years of age, their county dream, their county ambitions. But they'll always look back on that time of their lives," he said.

"It will always be valuable and important to them. Then for others it's going to be a really important vehicle to make their senior breakthrough."

The former All-Star also expressed surprise at the potential reduction of minor to U-17, and while it makes sense with exams, he is urging caution.

"The level of professionalism that they are being exposed to at that age could be dangerous and developmental squads will start younger and younger," he said.

"You could be forcing a level of physical preparation onto kids which they are simply not capable of adapting to at that age.

"People understand the levels of preparation, commitment and professional approach required and I'd be worried that the elite level will trickle down to the younger ages. That's a big risk."

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