Harriers oppose Under-17 pilot plan
One of the leading hurling clubs in the county has come out strongly against the possibility of changing the under-age grades in Wexford to Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 as part of a pilot scheme.
Faythe Harriers have written to their fellow clubs with an outline of their concerns, ahead of an open forum on the topic which will be held in the Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy this Wednesday at 7.30 p.m.
While the County Board state that some discussion has taken place on the matter to date, no formal proposal has been tabled.
The pilot project to replace the current Minor structure with Under-17 will be the main topic for discussion, along with the introduction of a mandatory rest break between championship games, and a possible move of the Leinster Minor championships from weekends to midweek in order to free up weekends for local games.
Faythe Harriers have outlined their opposition in writing, describing the suggested change as 'a worrying situation for all under-age players and parents'.
They are unhappy at the bid to change overnight, without any warning to players who are 18 years old in 2016. 'Players who are going to be 18 in 2016 are looking forward to their final year in under-age and now it's to be taken off them with just a stroke of a pen,' the letter, written by club Secretary William Murphy, states.
Faythe Harriers conducted a basic straw poll of the feelings of players of the same age from other clubs in Wexford town schools. Over 30 players were asked and they 'disagreed completely' with the Minor age limit being changed to Under-17.
The Harriers fear that if no under-age team is available for 18-year-olds at their own age, a lot of them will be lost to the game for good, especially those possibly not good enough or mature enough to make their club's adult or Under-21 sides. In contrast, other sports such as soccer and rugby will be able to offer them games in their own age group.
'At a time when it is already easy enough to lose players to doing their Leaving Cert. or heading to college, it will be even harder to keep them if we have no grade for them,' the letter continues.
The Harriers warn that if clubs lose four to five players next year, and the year after that, a club could quickly lose an entire team if the suggested change is implemented. 'This is at a time when we have never seen as many amalgamated teams competing in under-age competitions in Wexford.'
The club is also critical of the fact that the issue isn't being debated at Coiste na nOg level first, while the manner in which it was brought up initially has also raised their ire.
'The idea of changing under-age championships to Under-17, Under-15 and Under-13 on a pilot project basis from 2016 was presented verbally to the last County Board meeting. There were no papers presented, no PowerPoint presentations, no lists of the positives expected against the negatives that would accrue.'
On the matter of Wexford Minor teams, the Harriers ask how a management team supposed to prepare for an inter-county championship can do so without a domestic championship at that age group. 'How can they see their players in action to gauge how well they are playing?'
The Harriers say that 'we may be solving a problem for elite under-age players with this proposal,' but, 'for every elite Minor player, there are four or five non-elite players. The fixtures solution that may result with this change is going to create far bigger problems in terms of player retention'.
The letter also reminds the other 48 clubs in the county that Wexford is hosting the national hurling Féile in 2017. If the pilot scheme comes in, 'we will be hosting the top Under-14 teams from around the country and yet within the individual clubs, we actually won't have a club championship team at the Under-14 grade to host them. We would only have Under-13 and Under-15 championship teams at that grade and will have to cobble Under-14 teams together'.
The Harriers also question the need for Wexford to get involved in a pilot project when other counties have already signed up. 'Surely the idea of a pilot project is to let those already involved in it run it for the two-year period, and the results can then be examined at the end of it by other counties to examine if there is any merit in it.'
The Harriers conclude by taking issue with an excerpt from minutes of a management committee meeting held on July 6. The minutes state that participation in the pilot scheme on a three-year basis was discussed. Interest was expressed, but it was proposed to put it on hold until after Féile 2017.
The Harriers want to know when this was discussed and changed, and what is the reason for the change? That question, and many more besides, will be asked at Wednesday's meeting when it is expected that those in favour of the proposals will outline their reasons.