A NUMBER of Cork GAA clubs have contacted Rebel Óg to argue vehemently against a proposal that U13 and U15 teams should play in U14 and U16 competitions next year.
The current suggestion from Cork underage GAA's governing body is to place the emphasis on the 'traditional' age groups again. That is a hugely unsatisfactory situation for clubs with larger numbers, who have enough players to field two teams at U13 and U15 most seasons.
Rebel Óg recently sent out plans for 2021 and revealed that while U13 and U15 leagues will take place later in the year, their preference is for clubs to enter second teams at U14 and U16.
While that is manageable for clubs with smaller numbers, who traditionally don't enter teams at U13 and U15 anyway, it creates major problems for the likes of Douglas, Carrigaline, Glanmire-Sars, Ballincollig and more. They would have between 25 and 40 players 'on the age' at U13, and 60-plus players born in 2006-'07.
There were 28 entries on average at U13 in recent years, and 23 at U15. The majority of those clubs would have also entered second teams into the C3 grade, created to keep players in clubs with bigger numbers who don't make the first team involved in appropriate but competitive matches.
The clubs who wrote to Rebel Óg requesting an urgent meeting on the issue and said:
"Clubs want full competitions at each age group from U13 to U16 plus a C3 competition to facilitate clubs with larger playing pools.
"Player participation and elite player development is best served by offering players of all abilities 10 to 15 competitive matches per season. Less competitive matches will drive a rapid exodus to other sports.
"It is ironic that the current changes come off the back of unprecedented success at minor and U20 level for Cork football, built on the hard work of Rebel Óg and Games Development officers. The timing when the previous approach has delivered such positive results is truly baffling."
Rebel Óg stated in their original email to all clubs: "Competitions will be run in 2021 for second teams at U14 and U16. These competitions will replace the U13 and U15 competitions of previous years.
"Clubs should not enter these second-team competitions unless they have sufficient player numbers. Evidence of active player numbers to be submitted if requested.
"The purpose of this change is to rebalance the opportunities for all players aged 13 to 16, at U14 and U16, particularly those who do not get a lot of game time with the first team. It is also to decrease the incidence of burnout for strong U13 and U15 players who will be eligible to play with one team only at U14 and U16 respectively."
This would be similar to how they restructured competitions due to Covid in 2020, though that concluded with the cancellation of the U13 and U15 leagues that had been pushed back into October to prioritise U14 and U16, when the GAA halted all matches nationally.
In the letter to Rebel Óg, the clubs responded by saying: "If this approach succeeds in avoiding burnout for strong U13 and U15 players, it will be achieved at the expense of the majority who don't play up."
Many are also frustrated with having to pick 15 players for their first team in the U14 and U16 leagues. Previously clubs nominated 10 of their strongest hurlers and footballers, which offered more room for the others on the panel to find form in C3 grades and push their way into the first team.
Rebel Óg explained: "Clubs that enter a second team must submit a list of 15 players who are first-team players only. All other eligible players can play with both teams until championship. Players who play championship with the first team cannot subsequently play with the second team, in accordance with general rule.
"U13 competitions will be run in small groups, probably four per group in the summertime. U15 competitions will be run in October and November, again in small groups."