Cork GAA: Rebel Óg to run U18 leagues in 2023 but primary championship grades remain U15 and U17

Clubs will face a tricky task balancing demands with leagues at U14, U16 and U18 but championship for U15s and U17s
Cork GAA: Rebel Óg to run U18 leagues in 2023 but primary championship grades remain U15 and U17

Sarsfields Barry O'Flynn and Aghada's Sean O'Callaghan racing onto the sliotar during the Rebel Óg U16 P1 final at Bishopstown. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

REBEL Óg will run an U18 league this spring to accommodate players who have exited the minor ranks.

The body that oversees underage GAA on Leeside contacted clubs this week to inform them that leagues will be structured in the U12, U14, U16 and U18 categories before an exam break in June, but the primary championship grades will remain at U15 and U17 (minor).

It will mean clubs have a balancing act to perform in the coming months as the league and championship ages are now different. Féile changed from U15 to U14 two years ago to further confuse matters. 

The move comes as the fall-out from the GAA's national governing body's decision to forcibly reduce minor to U17 in 2021 continues. Before that, Rebel Óg had leagues at every age from U12 to U18 which created a natural flow up through the ranks to adult.

When Covid hit in 2020, Rebel Óg opted not to facilitate U13s and U15s on the age due to the truncated season, and then the GAA decreed the following year that minor had to follow the inter-county model, which changed in 2018, by going to U17. The upside was breaking the link between juvenile and adult matches to improve fixture planning.

The theory was also that U19 competitions would fill the gap for 18-year-olds but in most counties, and certainly Cork, that was undermined by walkovers.

The GAA promised to hold a special congress last autumn so counties could vote on minor but that never took place and instead the topic is on the agenda for this year's regular congress. In Cork, the majority want to see minor return to U18 and at annual convention in December delegates voted for 'decoupling' which means minors can't play for adult teams. 

Many will welcome an U18 league but for clubs with enough players, the preference remains leagues at every age, the same as soccer the other biggest participation sport in Cork.

RESTRUCTURE

The correspondence to clubs read:

"A chara Rebel Óg have been asked by the County Senior Board to run Fe18 competitions in 2023.

"To accommodate this request, the proposed general outline of fixtures for 2023, subject to detailed development of the Fixture Plan, is as follows;

"All clubs are expected to enter Fe13,15 and 17 as these are the primary age grades in 2023 Fe18, 16, 14 and 12 Leagues up to the break for the state exams, (Fe12 games can continue during the exam period) Fe14 championships in May/June as in 2022 Fe17 and Fe15 championships and Fe13 Leagues commencing after the state exam break.

"Rebel Óg hope to run Fe16 championships later in the year along the same lines as in 2022, this will depend on the detailed Fixture Plan which we are currently working on.

Douglas' Mark O'Brien breaks from Mallow's Davy Kingston during the Rebel Óg U16 P1 football final at Bishopstown. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Douglas' Mark O'Brien breaks from Mallow's Davy Kingston during the Rebel Óg U16 P1 football final at Bishopstown. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

"All clubs submitted entry forms pre-Christmas based on a competition structure and fixture plan similar to 2022. As the reintroduction of Fe18 to Rebel Óg changes the competition schedule and structure, we require that all clubs resubmit their entry forms for 2023 by Sunday next 15th Jan. Grading will then commence.

"Fe18 games will commence on the weekend of 25th/26th Feb."

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