GAA faces more calls to reduce burden on young players

Dr Niall Moyna echoes suggestion that county players be banned from Sigerson

Roscommon footballer Cathal Cregg  is strength and conditioning officer with Connacht GAA. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Roscommon footballer Cathal Cregg is strength and conditioning officer with Connacht GAA. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Roscommon footballer and Connacht GAA strength and conditioning officer Cathal Cregg for intercounty players to be deemed ineligible for college competitions has been endorsed by leading sports scientist and Sigerson Cup-winning DCU coach, Dr Niall Moyna.

“I think Cathal’s view makes sense,” he said. “We’re running competitions concurrently and all of them are training at different stages of the preparation cycle.

“Ideally, I’d like to revisit the proposals of the Burnout Task Force, which replaces the intercounty under-21 and minor grades with one under-19 level. Anything that restricts the number of teams one player can play for would help

“There are two ways of looking at it though, in that the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups have been running for longer than the minor or under-21 championships or even the national leagues, so there’s a legacy issue there. But the world has changed since 1911.

Good selecton

Asked would it not make more sense for Sigerson players to be ineligible for national league duty with their counties during January and February, Prof Moyna replied that the pressure on county managers would make that an unlikely outcome given the growing importance of the league.

“There’s a realisation that only four or five counties can win the All-Ireland and that the league is worth prioritising. League preparations are now analogous to championship preparations 10 years ago.”

Speaking to this newspaper about his presentation on physical development delivered at last Saturday’s annual GAA Games Development Conference, Cregg elaborated on his opinion.

“My belief is that whatever way you do it, the training load has to be taken off that age group. Whatever way you do it is open for debate, but there’s no other way of achieving that apart from removing the players or some of the competitions.

“There are three competitions there for elite players: the under-21 championship, the national league and the Sigerson, which are all happening at the one time, so they’re all trying to prepare for that and do their best. Re-scheduling the fixtures or stopping players from playing in competitions is the most obvious option for alleviating that.

“If I were a coach or a player in that category, I’d want to play in all of those competitions, but I think the decision should simply be taken away from him and his coach – within reason – and that’s the only way forward for the game and the player’s welfare.”

Presentation In his presentation at the weekend, Cregg

, who won the Sigerson Cup with DCU, cited the recent report of the Minor Review Work Group.

Its research data shows that muscular problems as a proportion of injuries in Gaelic games, at 46 per cent, outstrips all other field games. This, he argued, demonstrated that there are fundamental problems with the training regimes and demands on young players.

Cregg favoured the extension of the ban on minors playing at senior level to all levels, not just inter-county, and suggested other measures that might help, such as restricting under-21 players to that grade and not allowing them to join or re-join senior panels until their interest in the age-grade competition has concluded.

Cregg’s and Moyna’s views, coming a week after the Minor Review report, are the latest indication that the issues of fixtures and multi-eligibility are now coming to a head.

During the Minor Review Work Group presentation at Saturday’s conference, a video of Wexford dual player Matt O’Hanlon was shown during which he said that at one stage he was playing for 10 teams.

Eight years ago, Laois dual player John O’Loughlin was eligible for 13 teams and playing with 12. A decade previously, Cork’s Brian Corcoran played with 13.

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