Camogie minor and U16 grades must be given priority in 2021

Linda Mellerick explains why underage Cork players need to be their chance to shine this year
Camogie minor and U16 grades must be given priority in 2021

Cork's Saoirse McCarthy is tackled by Kilkenny's Niamh Deely during the 2020 Liberty Insurance All Ireland semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The talented player benefitted from underage success in red. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

OBVIOUSLY, with the camogie and LGFA associations on the Covid 19 advisory board alongside their GAA counterparts, their inter-county teams can return to training on April 19, with non-contact underage training in pods of 15 permitted from April 26.

A statement explained: “As you will appreciate, we need to receive further clarity on aspects of what was announced before finalising our plans for a return to training and ultimately games. We also need to finalise competition structures and dates for the upcoming inter-county season, as well as ensuring advice is provided for all clubs in relation to how they can safely recommence underage activity (and in the case of the six counties, adult club training from April 12).

“At this point, we can only confirm that senior inter-county teams both north and south are likely to be permitted to return to collective training from Monday, April 19. We hope to be in a position to confirm the fixture calendar and competition structures for inter-county by the end of next week. We also hope to have finalised updated versions of our Return to Play documents for both inter-county and club activity ahead of the stated dates for resumption north and south of the border.

“In the interim, we would ask for your patience while we complete this work, and we look forward to communicating in detail with you all again next week in relation to the resumption of camogie activity.”

At this stage, I’m wondering if the leagues will be cancelled as was the case in 2020 and we run right through with the championships. The draft fixtures that were circulating back in January had our national leagues running from March to May and the All-Ireland series from July to September.

To cancel the leagues would be the easiest of options and a route the Association might take. And I think that’s what they should do if it means giving a bit of space to the minor and U16 teams to play their championships.

Cork lost out on their All-Ireland three-in-a-row bid last year as the championship was surprisingly cancelled despite most of it having already been played. It was a huge blow to so many young players across the country.

Cork minor camogie manager Jerry Wallace lodged an appeal to the camogie association against the decision, but it failed to gain traction due to a rule in the association that states decisions of the Ard Chomhairle cannot be questioned.

Cork minor camogie manager Jerry Wallace. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Cork minor camogie manager Jerry Wallace. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The camogie association had explained that one of the motivating factors in their decision to axe the minor championship for 2020 was the crossover of players in this age group who are also part of their county’s junior, intermediate, or senior squad. The adult and minor All-Ireland championships are typically run at different times of the year, but the lockdown meant they would have to run concurrently when inter-county action resumed in October.

The association maintained that was not possible. I’m sure if you asked any minor player they’d have selected to play in their own championship and forfeit their adult contribution.

Minor is so special, and the window is short. I really hope that 2021 doesn’t repeat itself in this regard.

Likewise, with the intermediate championship, where six counties whose intermediate team was not their first team because they had a senior inter-county team, were removed from the intermediate championship. That was an unnecessary act and an awful blow.

Most of those girls will never play senior inter-county camogie so the fact that those counties had such a team should be irrelevant if we’re just looking at the players themselves and what’s best for them.

We’re in a far clearer position this time. Not that the roadmap has been very clear to date, but we can, I hope, expect that a large chunk of the country will be vaccinated by the end of June and we should be on the home stretch with regards our roadmap.

Will the fact that U18s being one of the last groups to be vaccinated go against them on the field of play? I’d be surprised if that was the case.

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