One of the ‘burning issues’ in the GAA in recent years – and rightly so – is the question of ‘burn-out’ and its long term affect on young players, particularly those who are also studying for major exams such as the Leaving Certificate. Thus it comes as no surprise that the high powered Hurling Development Committee is looking at the subject in some detail in its current review of hurling.
Among the most radical of these proposals in one that would see the All-Ireland Minor championships ‘scrapped’ and replaced by a special Under 17 event.This the Committee believes would help take much of the pressure off underage players doing their Leaving Certificate studies. Other competitions under consideration include the various college competitions and their effect upon the education of this age group.
“We are looking at is the minor grade, the move from youth to adult,” said HDC chairman Tommy Lanigan in the ‘Irish Daily Mail on Sunday’ .
“There’s a whole issue around the Leaving Cert and college games. I don’t think the policy makers have actually looked at that territory seriously.
“The under-17 model is one worth pursuing. I’m a former secondary school principal. I don’t need anecdotal evidence to realise the pressure put on students by sports coaches at the most difficult time of their lives when they’re trying to get a Leaving Cert, get into college and so on.
“The whole area of burn-out has been talked about for a long time. An 18-year-old, between hurling and football, can play at 10 different levels. That’s lunacy.”
The HDC is due to finalise their proposals in the weeks ahead and HDC secretary Pat Daly confirmed that any proposal made from a hurling perspective, would ultimately include football and also be applicable at club level. Daly is also the GAA’s Director of Games.
“Realistically, if we make any adjustment, it has to be across the board so there is uniformity.”
Also in the pipeline from the HDC is a proposed inter-county league and championship reform in 2014 which could have a very positive impact on the club scene and its players..
“We’re working on guaranteeing dates from April to August for club games,” added Lanigan which would be a great step forward and help clubs throughout the country who frequently complain that they lose young players for much of that period, which in an Ireland badly hit by emigration to countries like Australia, USA and UK often results in their being unable to field teams on occasions.
“We’re trying to put the club player at the heart of it all, at club and county. The club player wants a proper calendar.”
Cork won the inaugural Minor Hurling title in 1928 with a 7-6 to 4-0 win over Dublin after the first match had ended in a draw whilst a year later, Clare took the first ever Minor football title as they defeated Longford 5-3 to 3-5.
It has always been one of a Minor’s dreams to play on the hallowed turf at Croke Park on All-Ireland finals day so hopefully that tradition will be continued if and when the existing Minor championships ‘bite the dust’. Especially important for many from counties which rarely if ever appear in a Senior Final and for those players who themselves to not make the transition from Minor to Senior grades.
In the GAA world, traditions die hard yet some change is inevitable to help young players through their formative years and particularly in the field of education.After all one is only a GAA player for a limited number of years.