Cork waits as minor age debate rambles on until season's end

Whether minor is U17 once more or returns to U18 from 2023 remains to be thrashed out
Cork waits as minor age debate rambles on until season's end

Mayo's Paul Gilmore is challenged by Odhran Ferris of Kerry in the All-Ireland MFC semi-final.

WILL tomorrow’s All-Ireland Minor Football Championship final between Connacht rivals Mayo and Galway at Dr Hyde Park at 7.15 be the last at U17 level?

In 2018, Croke Park, in their wisdom, changed the ages at minor and U21 by a year to U17 and U20 on a trial basis and since then there’s been regular comment among the GAA faithful about its merits.

Traditionalists tend to favour a return to the old, U18 and U21, believing the changes have been a backward step rather than an improvement.

They also cite Croker’s downgrading of the minor grade in particular by not playing the All-Ireland finals at headquarters only compounds the problem.

Yet, if the football version provides even half the excitement as the Tipperary-Offaly hurling equivalent last weekend, that would help the cause of those in favour of the changes being made permanent.

Cork, along with other busy counties, are keeping a watching brief on developments as a special national committee discusses the matter.

Board vice-chairman Pat Horgan outlined the background.

“There have already been two meetings and Keith Ricken is part of that committee,” he told the Echo.

“A report is imminent and there will be a special Congress at the end of the year.” Yet, there’s an even more important element to the talks, regardless of what recommendations emerge from Croke Park.

“What’s critical from a Cork county board viewpoint is that whatever minor age-group is decided it has to be detached from adult competitions.

“If it’s not, we will not be in a position to produce a master fixture plan, which is something which the clubs and players want.

“They demand certainty and a master fixture plan gives you that.

“We have one at the moment that covers eight pages, but no county will be in a position to produce a plan if the current position is changed.

“I hope common sense prevails, knowing it will put some pressure on rural clubs, but younger lads have to concentrate on their own age-group in their final year as minors.

“They’ll be playing for the clubs for the rest of their careers.

“The big difference now is that we have certainty and we’ve done that since the revamp of our championship.

“People were crying out for when they were playing and we’ve delivered on that, but to carry on we must have the lower age group detached from adult competitions.

“That’s the way it is at U17 level at the moment and if they decide to return to U18, they must follow that template because otherwise it will be completely unworkable.

“Whatever age-groups are decided, that is what we will stick with going forward,” Horgan added.

That’s down the line for the moment as a strange and unpredictable football championship reaches a conclusion in Roscommon.

Firstly, it’s the third time Mayo and Galway will meet in championship with Mayo winning both.

They first square-up in the round-robin provincial championship, Mayo romping to a 1-15 to 0-4 victory en route to winning all four games before the knock-out phase.

There, they qualified to face Galway a second time in the final and while it was more competitive on this occasion, Mayo still won by 0-13 to 0-7.

They joined Cork as Munster champions, Dublin as Leinster winners and Tyrone as Ulster champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where form was turned upside down.

Mayo were the only provincial winners to survive and even then they were involved in a high-scoring goal-fest, eventually coming out the right side of a 3-18 to 3-12 score line.

Cork bowed out to Ulster runners-up, Derry, who won by 0-12 to 0-6, the Dubs lost to Galway by 0-10 to 0-7 in a cagey affair as was the game between the beaten Munster finalists, Kerry, against Tyrone, the Kingdom edging it by 0-8 to 1-4.

The semi-finals were very tight affairs, Mayo edging Kerry by 1-8 to 0-9 and Galway pipping Derry by 2-9 to 1-11 to create an historic all-Connacht showdown.

Galway lost contested a final in 2019, when Cork defeated them after extra-time. Galway last won in 2007 while Mayo triumphed six years later.

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