Clubs to consider playing adult games without Minors
The controversial issue of Under-17 and 18-year-olds playing hurling and football continues to rage in the Model county.
Last Wednesday night's special meeting arranged for discussion with club County Board delegates, Chairmen and Secretaries, made little progress despite the fact that the changing of the Minor age from Under-18 to -17 is clearly a non-runner, but the end proposal to have 18-year-olds barred from playing at adult level is now due for further debate.
County Chairman, Diarmuid Devereux, at the outset of the meeting in a presentation highlighted the many areas which clubs have to deal with, many of which were either lost on clubs or totally unacceptable, given the level of debate which ensued.
He outlined that the Congress rule change affords opportunity for debate, with county's responsibility spelt out at Congress.
The Minor age group is 50/50 at 17 and 18. One suggestion was no adult fixtures for Under-17 players (except Under-21), given that the complaints about fixtures are higher than ever.
He outlined the 2016 position of adult fixtures being driven by the Leinster Council schedule, adding that the new one-year calendar fixtures plan would cause serious problems.
Wexford is in a unique dilemma, with the Under-17 player being confined to Minor grade (unless still a Juvenile) with a fixture period from March to October being questionable.
Regarding the county's Minor schedule, the Chairman said that ten Minor finals were still scheduled as of October 21 with only two played. Minor started on March 1 with 35% of games played in March, and the last rounds of the league on August 5 (Premier and Roinn 1), and Roinn 2 on July 30.
There was a Leaving Cert. break, yet a 4/126 ratio of Under-17 players doing that exam. Eight clubs questioned had no Under-17 doing the Leaving Cert., with the Chairman adding that if repeated in 2016, then Under-17 players will be starved of activity.
Devereux went on to deal with welfare issues, health risks, and fixtures definition, which he suggests Wexford does not practice. He also spoke about burn-out, the duty of care to youth, and recovery.
Under the options heading he suggested mandatory rest and recovery periods for all players; force changes in Leaving Certificate policy on Under-18 fixtures to free up weekends; radical change to the Under-18 games schedule, such as a split season.
Another suggestion was that the Under-17 proposal be agreed but deferred, along with giving the welfare officer plenary power in disputes.
Minor finals to be played within three weeks of the semi-finals should be a mandatory position, with Under-18 versus adult fixtures clashes to favour Minors. Removing same season dual activity but promoting multiple sports was also thrown out for debate.
The views of delegates dealt mainly around fixtures, and the clash of under-age and adult, with the contributions varied.
On the burn-out issue, Shelmaliers delegate Seamus O'Leary made a relevant point: 'regarding burn-out, what burn-out? Given the players' summer break, they are always giving out at the lack of matches'.
Faythe Harriers delegate Willie Murphy struck at the kernel of the problem, and what this issue is all about, asking 'could the Minor finals not have been played five to six weeks back?'
The County Chairman offered a positive response: 'yes, they could'.
A surprising suggestion from a Coiste na nOg officer, who are surely about promoting games at under-age levels, came from Treasurer and Vice-Chairman of the adult board, Noel O'Keeffe, who asked the meeting: 'should 18-year-olds be barred from adult competition?'
Davidstown-Courtnacuddy's Robert Hassey rowed in behind this suggestion, but Seán Quirke (Oylegate-Glenbrien) warned that clubs should consider their second teams, where many are reliant on three to five Minors making up a team. Barring 18-year-olds could leave many adults without a team and a game.
This is a debate that could go on and on. But the time has arrived to take the Under-17/18 discussion off the agenda, and address the fixtures dilemma that exists between under-age and adult.
There must be a proper fixtures plan incorporating both sections, and do away with the point-scoring.
There are no ultimate winners in one body arranging a fixture over the other.
It's the players and the clubs that are ultimately losing out.