Cork GAA: Minor stays at U17 in 2023 but an U18 tier will be run as well

GAA will debate the restoration of minor to U18 at Congress next February 
Cork GAA: Minor stays at U17 in 2023 but an U18 tier will be run as well

Youghal's captain Jamie Lenane tackles St Colman's Yosef Hallahan in the Rebel Og U15 Premier 2 final. Those young players now graduate to minor in 2023. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A motion at next month’s Cork GAA county convention, brought by the executive, will propose minor grades at both club and inter-county level return to U18, albeit with full decoupling (i.e. minors prevented from lining out at adult level).

When the issue was discussed at recent meetings, almost all clubs were in favour of returning from U17 to U18 but there was a split largely along population lines — bigger clubs had no problem with decoupling while those with limited numbers were against it.

If the motion passes, it will go forward to Congress next February. 

In 2023, Cork will run non-decoupled U18 competitions as a replacement for the U19 grade while Rebel Óg will continue to administer U17 level.

The U19 grade was not a success this season due to the crossover with adult teams and the fact it commenced in the summer when many clubs had players away. It was a knockout competition so didn't provide a sufficient number of matches for players not featuring with their club's adult sides.

The GAA dropped the minor grade from U18 to U17 in 2018 and then decreed that all counties had to follow that lead for the 2021 season. Cork voted against this change in the first place due to obvious concerns about player drop-offs. The majority of U17s are still in Fifth Year when the minor season starts. 

 St Finbarr's Thomas Egan gathers the ball from Carrigaline's Ben Crowley during the Rebel Óg Premier 2 final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Finbarr's Thomas Egan gathers the ball from Carrigaline's Ben Crowley during the Rebel Óg Premier 2 final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

This year, Rebel Óg used the round-robin format for their U15 and U17 tiers, while U12 and U13 were league-based culminating in finals. U14 is now a secondary age, and was played as a championship with cup and shield competitions while U16 was knockout, run across October and November with finals coming up shortly.

Elsewhere, fears that Cork’s county championship format is in breach of GAA rules have been allayed.

Top-tier championships are limited to 16 teams, whereas the Cork premier senior grades feature 12 clubs as well as potentially 10 divisions and colleges, playing in a separate competition with one advancing to the county quarter-final stage. County board secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan told the meeting that Cork would be safe from further reform.

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