A decision on what competitions will be run for the U-19, U-20 or U-21 grades this year will not be made until the April meeting of Clare GAA.
Games Officer Sean O’Halloran (Bodyke) outlined to delegates that following discussions with clubs in relations to the grades, the feedback was that an U-21 competition was the first preference for almost 80% of clubs, with an U-19 competition being the second preference. Following a discussion with the fixtures committee, a recommendation was made to run an U-20 competition as a compromise, with long term member of the fixtures group Colm Browne (Kilrush Shamrocks) explaining that it was an attempt to find a middle ground in order to get games played within a restricted timeframe due to Covid-19.
He stated that with the timeline available, it was felt it was not feasible to play both. He also highlighted concerns that with an U-19 competition, there would be crossover with adult squads which would make it difficult to run alongside adult championships in a normal year, and even more so in one where time is restricted. He urged that clubs needed to be sensible about whatever decision would be made and that setting any firm decision is futile until a timeframe is known.
Delegates from Kilmaley, Clonlara, Clarecastle, Eire Óg, Inagh-Kilnamona, Sixmilebridge, Corofin and Broadford all spoke in favour of playing at both U-19 and U-21 if possible in the coming year, while the possibility of finishing out the 2020 championship, which was abandoned due to Covid-19, was also raised.
Clarecastle delegate Niall Tuohy urged the board to back an U-21 competition, stating that “we are in the wrong business if we allow players to get no games for two years. These are the important years for progression to adult hurling so it is important that U-21 does not get overlooked”.
A similar sentiment was shared by Christy Murray of Sixmilebridge who said that midweek fixtures may well have to be an option in order to get the games played.
“There are loads of lads who got very little hurling last year. They trained for three months and got one game, or maybe none at all. Clubs will just have to play the games, and there is no good in saying that Johnny is away or Paddy is away. We have to get our matches played or we will end up with no players because they will all be gone” he warned.
John Keane (Doonbeg) outlined that from a football viewpoint, it was his clubs preference that an U-20 competition be run, but that a league format be adopted in order to maximise the amount of games for players. John Meade (Kildysart) asked for an U-19 and U-21 competition.
Chairman Jack Chaplin said any decision on finishing last year’s U-21 hurling championship would have to be made at a later date and that there was no point in “talking in the dark about it” with so much uncertainty still surrounding a return to play. He also informed delegates that the issue would be returned to at the April meeting of the board, when more clarity on the timeframes available will be known as Covid-19 plans evolve.