CORK GAA and Rebel Óg have launched a new competition at U14 level to expand the number of players involved in hurling and football development.
Under this new structure, eight regional teams will form two groups of four teams to play in a league format with the next phase of the competition pitting the top two teams in each group into the Cup with the third and fourth placed teams entering the Shield.
The structure will cast the net far and wide catering for 400 players between hurling and football in games running until August. It replaces the long-serving approach where Cork had A and B squads at U14 to take part in the various inter-county tournaments, including the prestigious Tony Forristal which the Rebel hurlers won in style last year.
The teams are on a geographical basis but with soft borders on the traditional divisions to ensure the teams are of a similar standard. The Rebel Óg Coaching GDAs have spent six months organising internal games to determine appropriate structures for U14 player development.
This new format breaks away from the regional format which consisted of four regional teams followed by a move to 48 players in hurling who went on to represent Cork at the inter-county tournaments.
Speaking at the launch, Cork chairperson, Tracey Kennedy welcomed the change.
“Clubs throughout the county should benefit from this structure as there will be more club players involved in a full season of activity at a high level and they will return to their clubs better players.”
Coaching officer Ronan Dwane attended the launch and is very optimistic that the new league format will ensure that very few players can slip through the net.
“The increase in teams from four to eight means that squads are more localised allowing more players to be involved over a full season.”
County games manager Kevin O’Callaghan feels this is a very exciting move for Cork GAA.
“Given the size of the county, it is appropriate to cast the net wider given that there is much evidence across the world at this point to indicate that increasing participation in a development programme will result in an improvement in overall playing standards and a broader pool of players capable of playing at elite level in future years.
“The move away from formal inter-county activity demonstrates a commitment to long-term player development rather than short term inter-county success which has no correlation with inter-county performance in future years. In this context, this new format represents an age-appropriate pathway for players to start out with Cork.”
Games commenced in football on Bank Holiday Monday with modified rules to ensure swift movement of the ball and to encourage quick decision-making.