Seven-day gap between matches for under-20 players reduced to 60 hours

GAA Congress: Cork motion passes by 72 per cent to 28

Cork’s motion to redefine the eligibility of under-20 players to line out for senior teams by relaxing the seven-day gap between matches to a 60-hour window has been successful at the GAA congress in Newry.

This has been a vexed issue, with the original rules governing this eligibility ring-fencing players once they had opted to play under-20. This was relaxed to seven days under the terms of a Wexford motion that players could play both if there was a seven-day gap between matches.

Cork chief executive Kevin O’Donovan proposed the county’s further relaxation and said that he wasn’t used to speaking on behalf of elite players.

“This [rule] has a very short history but has caused much debate. Colm O’Neill [Limerick hurler] and David Clifford [Kerry footballer] were deprived of an All-Ireland under-20 medal [because they played senior]. You might argue that it didn’t do them any harm but it did to their teams and team-mates, who never got to play at the top level.


“It is also a rule that attracts constant negativity with managers and players themselves complaining about the unavailability of players.

“The 60-hour rule gives effectively a five-day window and is a simple, workable solution. Rather than tie the hands of CCCC [Central Competitions Control Committee], it takes the pressure off.

“Because of the effect on fixtures, we are proposing that this isn’t introduced until 2025.”

Clare’s Kieran Keating argued that the Wexford proposal had caused too much restriction, which the Cork motion would alleviate. Declan Bohan from Leitrim hoped that it would be immediately implementable, which appears unlikely given the reservations of provincial councils.

Offaly chair Michael Duignan, a former under-21 hurling captain, remembered his own playing days when the senior and under-21 championships coexisted in harmony with midweek matches at the age grade and senior on Sundays. He added that the players affected mightn’t be many but “they are massive losses for their team”.

Leinster chief executive Michael Reynolds in his contribution said that they have “teams from all provinces in their hurling championship” and that the motion would “cause a lot of practical difficulties”, especially given the number of dual players at under-20.

His Connacht counterpart John Prenty also opposed, urging that congress “postpone the motion until we can find a better solution”.

Other speakers were however supportive of Cork. Former president Seán Kelly said that the 60-hour window serves “the duty of care to players” and ensures that every player can aspire to an All-Ireland in a grade for which he is eligible.

There was also support from the Gaelic Players’ Association whose chief executive Tom Parsons distinguished between the GPA’s continuing campaign to address competition load and the increased burden on players, inherent in the motion by contrasting circumstances in the early months of the summer when players are all fit.

Wexford chair Micheál Martin said that the county’s motion, passed last year, which was intended to create a seven-day buffer between under-20 and senior matches for affected players, had been interpreted in an overly restrictive manner by the CCCC so as to create an effective two-week gap.

He said that the Cork motion would bring “equity and fairness” to the situation.

John Devaney, chair of Down, said that the county had won the Ulster title at under-20 and ring-fenced three players, who “didn’t play senior football as a result” and that this had caused “annoyance that they could and should have been able to”.

In replying to the debate, O’Donovan first clarified that the new provision would apply to all levels and not just elite.

“Hard cases make bad law but if hard cases keep arising, it’s incumbent on us to address them,” he concluded.

The motion was passed by 72 per cent to 28.

Fermanagh’s motion to have minor finals added to All-Ireland days as a curtain raiser was withdrawn.

Jack Devenney piloted through what had become known as the Kilcoo motion. This was simply to tidy up the anomaly whereby objections to the appointment of referees, whereas not permitted at national or provincial level, was possible in a county – as happened when Kilcoo successfully challenged an appointment to the Down county final.

The correction was accepted by 95 per cent of delegates.

There was also support for clearing up the anomaly of different coloured referees’ cards having different impacts in extra-time of matches. Yellow cards did not previously carry into extra-time whereas black cards did and a team losing a player to a red card was allowed to replace him.

Central Council’s James Mel Clarke, from Longford, proposed that yellow cards would carry and that teams could not replace dismissed players. He said that the impetus for the motion had come from referees.

His motion, number 22, was accepted, by 87 per cent to 13.

The outgoing chair of the Standing Committee on the Playing Rules, David Hassan, proposed that the black card in hurling be made permanent and extended to minor in both hurling and football.

This was accepted by 93 per cent of delegates.

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times