CORK will run a one-off U18 competition next season, as well as an U21 grade, to cater for young players as minor drops to U17.
A decision was taken nationally to drop the standard U14, U16 and U18 age grades to U13, U15 and U17 from next season. That was going to leave players turning 18 without meaningful competition so the Cork County Board and Rebel Óg have stepped in to cater to those born in 2003.
At inter-county level, minor has been U17 for the past three years, while the U21 grade switched to U20.
Cork didn't run any U21 games at club level this year, as plans to stage hurling and football competitions were shelved by the second Covid lockdown in October.
There will still be challenges with the format for 2021, with a draw on players for the U17 and U18 championships, while those turning 18 will also be eligible to play senior. The details will be finalised once the national calendar is finalised and how the club and inter-county split will be managed.
Another issue in the background is in regards to younger teenagers, particularly in the U14/U15 and U16/U17 categories.
Rebel Óg have received a host of petitions from clubs in Cork urging them to provide proper competitions for every age from U12 to U17, rather than expecting clubs to combine ages and stream their players into two or more teams.
"In parallel with the confirmation of U17, U15 and U13 as the primary underage grades as per national policy, the County Executive, in consultation with Rebel Óg, now confirm the following:
"For the 2021 season – U18 and U21 competitions will take place. U18 competitions will be organised by Rebel Óg, with U21 competitions organised by divisions and CCB, as before.
"This is for 2021 only and a decision on competitions for 2022 and beyond will follow in due course.
"The formats and calendars for the various competitions will be confirmed once the national club and county calendar for 2021 is clearer. We will continue to liaise with all to ensure that regular, meaningful games are provided for all players at child, youth and adult level.
"While the new primary age grades will allow the decoupling of adult and youth games, thus facilitating far more expansive games programmes at the respective levels, two major concerns are obvious.
"Firstly, the proximity of the 2021 season and the concern that boys already looking forward to the new year will miss their last year at minor. This has now been addressed by the organisation of an U18 competition for 2021.
"Secondly, the major issue of dropout in the GAA during the teenage years remains the primary concern. This will be addressed by introduction of the appropriate age grade(s) for 2022 to follow, be they at U18, U19, U20 or U21 .
"Of course, this transitionary grade will have to be considered in terms of the relative crossover on both underage and adult competitions. Many thanks to all who submitted feedback on this matter with the shared objective of maximising participation at all levels."