Dublin boss Gray says timing of U20 championship an ‘absolute disgrace’

Decision to shoehorn competition into early part of the year proving controversial

Tom Gray: “We’ve a lot guys who are doing exams, mock exams, we have freshers in college and to push a competition back into this time of year was short-sighted in the extreme.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tom Gray: “We’ve a lot guys who are doing exams, mock exams, we have freshers in college and to push a competition back into this time of year was short-sighted in the extreme.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Dublin under-20 manager Tom Gray has claimed the decision to bring forward the underage football championship to early spring this year was “myopic” and an “absolute disgrace”.

EirGrid Leinster under-20 champions Dublin are on the brink of back to back titles and will play Laois in the provincial final.

But Gray, who guided Dublin to last year’s All-Ireland final against Cork when the competition was played between late June and early August, said the timing of the 2020 tournament is terrible.

Dublin began their Leinster campaign against Wicklow on February 8th and the All-Ireland final is scheduled for March 28th with the semi-finals due to take place at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.

Aside from clashing with exam commitments, Gray noted the terrible weather conditions that have prevailed with Storm Ciara and then Storm Dennis raging during their wins over Wicklow and Longford.

“I think the idea of having the competition at this time of the year is an absolute disgrace,” said Gray. “I think the thought process behind it was...to say it was myopic would be understating it. We’ve a lot guys who are doing exams, mock exams, we have freshers in college and to push a competition back into this time of year was short-sighted in the extreme.

“The purpose of the competition, an underage competition, is developing players. To try to develop players in the conditions that we’re having and in the time frame of the competition at the moment is...look, we’re doing our best but it’s far from ideal. It should have been left in the summer.”

Gray also revealed his frustration at the attempt to prevent inter-county senior players from playing in the U-20 championship.

For this year, senior inter-county players are eligible to participate in the U-20 championship too.

But motion number 39 to this weekend’s Annual Congress proposes that any player who ‘plays in a national football league game at any stage in the current year’s’ campaign will be immediately ineligible for U-20 activity.

Dublin don’t currently have any U-20 players on Dessie Farrell’s senior panel but many other counties do experience an U-20/senior crossover and Gray reckons they’d be heavily affected.

Senior panel

“In relation to players playing national league, and not being eligible then to play in this competition, it probably won’t really affect Dublin but I do think it’s incredibly unfair on counties like Meath, like Laois,” he said.

“They [Laois] have two senior guys I think, we played Wicklow and they had four guys on their senior panel. Like, what are you saying to counties like that who need those guys for their senior panel? Look, I think the GAA needs to have a good look at itself in relation to the timing of this competition and the rules that govern it.”

Gray’s Dubs hammered Meath by 13 points last Saturday following 10-point wins over both Wicklow and Longford.

They’re currently favourites for both Leinster and All-Ireland success though Gray noted it’s a virtually new Dublin team compared to the one that reached last year’s All-Ireland final.

Prolific Ciarán Archer, who hit 10-35 last summer and who has registered 0-4, 1-4 and 0-2 so far this term, is the only starting player from last year in this year’s team.

“It’s a totally new team,” said Gray.

“Look, last year has absolutely no bearing on this year. I think, if anything, it’s got more bearing from Laois’ point of view because they have a lot of fellas who experienced last year. We have five guys starting this year who haven’t played championship before for Dublin. Every year at underage is a different year.”

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