Sport GAA

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Time's Up: Famous GAA club calls for rule change amid struggle to field senior team

Valentia GAA calls for rule change allowing U-17s to play for their senior side

Valentia Island players Steven Sheehan (36), Joe Lynch (16), Donnachad Lynch (16), Paul O’Connor (33), Sony Curran (16), Jack Regan (16) and Paul O’Sullivan.
Valentia Island players Steven Sheehan (36), Joe Lynch (16), Donnachad Lynch (16), Paul O’Connor (33), Sony Curran (16), Jack Regan (16) and Paul O’Sullivan.
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Time is catching up with Young Islanders GAA club which has just a dozen adult players - one of whom is in his 50s - and won't be in a position to field a team unless the rules are changed.

The Valentia, Co Kerry club wants to have the rule prohibiting under 17s from playing adult games reversed.

Chairperson Deirdre Lyne said the club has been "keeping the wolves from the door" for several years with a decreasing playing population.

But with long-term injuries, travel and retirements it finds itself in an immediate dilemma - how to field a team.

Last year was one of Valentia Young Islanders' most progressive years with promotion from Division Five to Division Four.

But on the cusp of a new season, circumstances have left the club with just "12 to 13" adult players, according to Ms Lyne.

Junior choice: Valentia Island players Sony Curran, Joe Lynch and Jack Regan are eager to play – and they’re all aged 16
Junior choice: Valentia Island players Sony Curran, Joe Lynch and Jack Regan are eager to play – and they’re all aged 16

"It's not any one reason, it's a collection of bad luck. In the space of six weeks the whole backside fell out of it through no fault of anyone's," she said.

Valentia's story is a familiar one through much of rural Ireland as the effects of depopulation continue to take hold.

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And it's why the club has again pushed to have the rule prohibiting U-17s from playing adult games reversed. After a couple of attempts, Valentia got its motion through the Kerry convention.

This weekend Congress delegates will be asked to re-open the door to U-17s attached to a junior club with just one team to allow them to play non-championship games. With four potential U-17 recruits, Ms Lyne says Valentia's immediate future depends on it.

"If we can survive until halfway through the year we could have a very good year, we'd be quite competitive in Division Four," she said.

One of those who retired is a 47-year-old though Ms Lyne said she suspected he was "still only a phone call away if needed". Another, Brian Quigley (52) has yet to make a call on his future having suffered a bad injury in last year's South Kerry quarter-final.

Ms Lyne sees another reason as to why the rule, or at least a part of it, should be reversed - to stop the potential loss of young players.

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