Leave the Minor grade alone
The controversial issue of having an Under-17 structure to replace Minor which has served the G.A.A. so well is far from over given the debate that circled around the proposal at the recent County G.A.A. Board meeting.
It's now being proposed that Wexford become one of four pilot counties in the country to test the new structure which would also include Under-20 instead of the current Under-21, while also leading to age groups of Under-13 and Under-15.
Based on the level of debate during the meeting, this is not a well thought out proposal asthe majority of clubs were at a loss as to what impact the structure would have.
Clubs felt that not alone are they not ready for such a radical move, but it could lead to the dismantling of under-age, not just at club level but also on the inter-county sscene.
It would mean that players under 17 years of age cannot participate in adult competition, while those under 18, who under existing rules could compete at Minor level, will be left with an incomplete Under-20 championship.
That's if this year's and other year's Under-21 competitions are to be used as guidelines, while their further games participation would most probably be with their adult clubs' second string sides.
But also of equal importance is inter-county. Where would all of this leave Wexford at inter-county Minor level, given that 18-year-olds would have limited club participation, and more likely no club games before provincial championships?
This is a debate that certainly needs more involvement, not just from club delegates at the County Board, but at grassroots levels among its members, particularly parents and those officers responsible for the running of under-age affairs within their clubs.
This is one of the most important decisions ever to be made at County Board level regarding under-age in the county. Yet this was being discussed by adult members with no representation from club under-age structure, where it will impact more.
It was a one-sided approach and totally unacceptable as this is a discussion that could have serious ramifications for the Association in the county for many decades to come.
The views and explanations were not very well thought out. A proper paper should have been drawn up by the main officers and P.R.O. outlining the proposals in detail so delegates had a clear knowledge of what was being discussed. Instead details were just thrown out to delegates which in turn led to utter confusion.
For me the most alarming explanation for such a move was: 'it would free up more time for adult fixtures.
It would also include in the mix efforts to have provincial Minor championship games played mid-week, which would also free up adult playing time'.
While that has its merits, it cannot be taken in isolation.
Adult game time can become more available with the tightening of the inter-county structure, and the starting of adult championship games perhaps two weeks earlier than this year, coupled with the elimination of a black-out of games during peak summer months, affording inter-county teams less time in the lead-up to championship games.
So if the G.A.A. want to build the Association through its under-age levels this is a road they can ill-afford to travel.
It needs more thought as the current proposal would lead to the dismantling of the under-age structures within the majority of clubs, more club amalgamations, and a large exit of 18-year-olds to other sports where they would be provided with meaningful competition for their age level.
It would also lead to Wexford becoming an even more peripheral county at inter-county Minor level.
This is not just a bugbear for traditionalists. The current proposals as they stand would lead to the dismantling of under-age G.A.A. in Wexford as we know it.
Let's stick together and retain the status quo along with the likes of Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary and other strong counties.
Anything less would have serious ramifications for the G.A.A. in the county in the years to come.
The last thing we need is to move away from the Under-18 and disenfranchise many of our brightest prospects.