Sunday 21 January 2018

New U-25 competition looks one for the CPA to get their teeth into

Declan Brennan, Secretary CPA, at the official launch of the Club Players Association. Photo: Sportsfile
Declan Brennan, Secretary CPA, at the official launch of the Club Players Association. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Sometime after last year's Congress motions to abolish the All-Ireland intermediate hurling and junior football championships failed so narrowly, the GAA's Central Council set down certain qualification criteria for these grades.

At the outset the establishment of these competitions was to give an inter-county platform to players from intermediate and junior clubs in the respective grades at a time when the inter-county game was a lot less concentrated than it is now.

But over the years qualification slowly eroded with some counties putting forward their second best teams as others stuck to the principle of drawing from lower-graded club players only.

So when a motion to scrap the All-Ireland intermediate championship failed by less than one per cent (65.3 per cent) and another to kill of the All-Ireland junior championship stopped short by just a little more, Central Council provided guidelines for what should constitute intermediate and junior teams.

In hurling, a Liam MacCarthy Cup county should be choosing players from intermediate and junior clubs only while in football Division 1 would follow the same guidelines with only Division 4 teams allowed to field second teams.

In between Division 2 and 3 eligibility would be determined by the number of intermediate and junior clubs in a particular county.

All of that may be deemed irrelevant now with the Munster Council pushing through with the formation of a provincial U-25 competition.

Only Cork have expressed an interest in an intermediate hurling championship so they will, by entitlement, be deemed champions.

But Cork have indicated that they too will join an U-25 competition if they are the only participants in an intermediate championship.

So what the GAA were seeking in abolishing intermediate and junior competition may happen anyway, if not this year, then certainly in the years ahead.

But what will have alarmed Croke Park, and surely the newly-formed Club Players Association, at a time when the mood is for fewer inter-county games, is the establishment of a brand new inter-county competition that leans again towards a more elite standard of player.

The idea is to give less established inter-county players a feel for big days. Munster Council intend running the competition as a curtain-raiser to their senior championship to encourage crowds to come earlier and are confident that expressions of interest from the counties will make it a success.

Effectively the 'second' or development team competitions that the GAA have been trying to steer clear of have now been created and will fly in the face of one of the motions that did get passed at last year's Congress, allowing for players who are not included in an inter-county senior panel of 26 players to be made available to their clubs on the weekends of National League and senior championship games.

If there's an U-25 competition being run simultaneously in Munster then that surely can't happen if senior squad members outside the 26 are eligible for U-25.

An U-25 competition may be useful to inter-county managers sizing up the next wave of player in a competitive environment but it is far removed from what the GAA intended these secondary competitions to be - and even further removed from what the CPA is about to agitate for.

Irish Independent

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