Camogie Association's major mistake is totally unfair on county minor players

Camogie Association's major mistake is totally unfair on county minor players

Clare’s Amy Russelltrys to close down Cork’s Ciara O’Sullivan in last year’s All-Ireland Minor A Camogie final. This year’s has been cancelled. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE spotlight has been on the Camogie Association this week. 

Firstly, the association was criticised for not taking advantage of flipping the inter-county and club championships against the GAA schedule to avail of greater publicity. In other words to play the All-Ireland series in August and September when the GAA is focused on clubs.

And, secondly, for the decision to cancel the All-Ireland minor championships for 2020.

Let’s take the minor championship first. I don’t have an issue with cancelling the leagues. Something has to give, even though it is disappointing for the Cork seniors, as they were in prime position to win. 

However, cancelling the most important championship was mind-boggling. Set aside the fact that the window of opportunity to represent your county at minor level is small, this is the age group where we have the greatest drop-out rate of young girls playing sport.

These girls have put in a huge effort to reach what may be the pinnacle of their career and it’s been snatched away from them. As of Sunday evening, nearly 4,000 people had signed a petition to get this championship reinstated, but there has been no indication of a reversal.

The reasoning given is the potential crossover of players with junior, intermediate, and senior championship teams. I don’t accept that. If a crossover does occur, then it is up to the individual counties to deal with it and for the player to decide.

I would bet my house that all the minor girls would choose to play minor. That is their age group. They have their whole playing careers to play adult grades. And what about those girls who don’t cross over?

What about those girls whose only opportunity to ever wear their county jersey is at minor level?

Miriam Cotter, Emma Murphy and Ciara O’Sullivan celebrating last year’s All- Ireland minor win. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Miriam Cotter, Emma Murphy and Ciara O’Sullivan celebrating last year’s All- Ireland minor win. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

I loved my minor playing years. Minor is special. I appreciate the difficulties the Camogie Association has in trying to fit all games into a short window, but this was the worst call they could have made.

What makes it all the more bewildering is that this minor championship started in February.

A couple of games had already taken place. There are five games left to finish it out. Yet, they have decided to scrap it and start a minor provincial championship? So, there’s going to be no crossover, is there? What the Camogie Association are saying is that the provincial championship is meaningless and so crossover doesn’t matter.

The provincial championship isn’t meaningless, but, at the same time, it isn’t a patch on the All-Ireland championship and what it means to the girls playing in it.

Twenty-five counties have been affected. That’s 650 players.

This call is wrong on so many fronts and I really hope the Camogie Association reconsiders its decision.

The case for county first and club second, so as to take advantage of the empty sports pages and, hopefully, increase attendances during the inter-county GAA off-season, has also raised its head, with many feeling the Camogie Association should have run it this way. I’m not so sure.

Firstly, I think the Camogie Association had to be seen to put clubs first. In addition, it might have made a difference to column inches on national newspapers, but would it really increase attendances?

If many camogie games act as curtain-raisers to hurling championship games, isn’t that a bigger opportunity to gain a wider audience?

There were many of these type of fixtures last year. I imagine we will have them again in 2020.

I think this was a case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’, as the Camogie Association would have been seen as placing club second, the bedrock of our association, regardless of the reasons why.

From a club point of view, having the championship run over a specific period of time, knowing that all games need to finish on the day, acceptance of the fact that dates will be set in stone, with no movement, and that there’ll be no issues regarding inter-county players’ schedules, is refreshing for them and for the county board, too, I’d imagine.

On what date do we except the All-Ireland camogie finals to be played? The hurling final is December 13, the football decider is Saturday, December 19. Are we looking at December 6 or December 20?

The ladies’ footballers will also need a December date. Could we see another Saturday in use? We’ll know soon.

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