Recommendations made to lighten load on GAA minor players

Workgroup aiming to prevent player burnout and dropouts by altering eligibility and scheduling

The GAA’s minor review workgroup have made a number of recommendations to help ease “the unsustainable situation for our talented 17 and 18-year-old players in which there is excessive focus on short term results to the possible detriment of long-term potential.”

The group found that a huge number of minor footballers and hurlers are participating in excessive training sessions and matches, usually with numerous teams in multiple competitions. This is emphasised by 81 per cent of questionnaire respondents stating that they have felt pressurised not to participate with another team.

Other findings included that 62 per cent of respondents have played while injured, 24 percent play games on a daily or more than one per day basis, and two out of three players will pick up at least one injury in a season.

The 24 recommendations have been split under four sections, player eligibility, scheduling of competitions, competition format and player welfare.

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Amongst the key proposals are calls to limit participation in adult competition (over the U21 grade) to players in their last year of minor and forbidding intercounty minor players from playing at intercounty U21 or senior grades.

In recent year's the likes of Donegal's Paddy McBrearty, Louth's Ryan Burns and Westmeath's John Heslin have played pivotal roles for their county teams aged 18 or less.

With little appetite for the minor grade to be changed to U17 level, the group also suggests a three-year pilot programme at club level which would see one county per province amended their age grades to U13, U15, U17 and U19 at club level.

Furthermore, there’s a proposal for club minor competitions to be completed no later than the second weekend in October, facilitating the commencement of post-primary schools competitions. The latter, they say, should have first call on intercounty players during the commencement of their competitions.

Intercounty minor finals should only be played as a curtain-raiser to adult games “where this is in the best interest of player welfare”. All-Ireland minor football quarter-finals should be discontinued from 2016 and each provincial inter-county minor championship competition should be run using the same format allowing for a second chance for every team.

Additionally, a hurling development committee should develop proposals regarding All-Ireland minor competitions and the accommodation of Galway and Antrim in an equitable system which promotes best practice in a development context.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times