GAA Football

Replacing U21 Football Championship makes sense: Dublin boss Dessie Farrell

Dublin U21 boss Dessie Farrell hopes the U20 grade will yield the same quality next year

DUBLIN'S Dessie Farrell admits that the All-Ireland U21 Football series “will be a loss” to the GAA – but believes replacing it with an U20 grade makes sense.

Dublin and Galway will battle it out in the last-ever U21 inter-county decider on Saturday April 29 after they came through against Donegal and Kerry in their respective semi-finals last weekend.

In an attempt to tackle player burn-out among young players, Congress passed a motion in 2016 that proposed to remove the U21 grade at inter-county football level.

From January 1 2018, there will be a new U20 level in its place, while the minor grade in football and hurling will be U17 at inter-county level.

From next year, the U20 Football Championship will be played between June and August with games being played to a finish. If extra-time does not yield a winner, games will be settled by a novel free-taking shoot-out.

Noteworthy in the change is a player cannot be part of a senior Championship panel and an U20 Championship panel in the same year.

While the U21 All-Ireland series has thrown up some memorable matches in recent years - particularly the 2015 decider between Tyrone and Tipperary – Farrell has backed its removal from the GAA calendar.

“I can see how it makes sense,” said the U21 Dublin manager.

“I was probably one of the supporters of that call at the time.

“In my role with the GPA we'd suggested this was probably the way forward because there are so many players now that are capable.

“It's not like years ago where the U21 was a bridge between minor and senior. Strength and conditioning-wise, players are capable at a younger age of moving up to the senior ranks, and there's just such a burden on them at college, club, U21 for those who are good enough.

“It's too much to ask of players and that's why I support the concept of it from a player welfare perspective.

“But the U21 competition will be a loss. It'll be interesting to see what the U20 gives us. It could give us more of the same and that would be great too.”

The fact that Dublin will feature in the last U21 football final, Farrell feels, will add a bit more prestige to their eagerly-awaited meeting with Galway at the end of the month.

However, Dublin U21 forward Brian Howard, who was man-of-the-match in his side's comprehensive win over Donegal last Saturday, is not in favour of the change as it deprives the Raheny clubman of another year at U21.

“With the new rule coming in, this is my last year so it's good to get to the All-Ireland final in my final year. [But] I obviously think it's a bad thing because I'll miss out on a year but we'll see how it goes.”

Donegal U21 boss Declan Bonner is also against the shift from U21 to U20 and U18 to U17 next year.

“I'd be disappointed U21 is going because it's a great tournament,” said Bonner.

“I don't know what difference the U17s and U20s is going to make.”

Still sore about Donegal's paltry five-day turnaround between their Ulster final victory and last Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Dublin, Bonner added: “They talk about player welfare. Putting these guys out five days after winning an Ulster title, I don't think there was any regard for player welfare in this year's competition.”

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GAA Football