Movement required to see U20 and minor action: Down chairman Jack Devaney
DOWN chief Jack Devaney hopes the Irish Government can give the GAA the green light for the minor and U20 inter-county grades to resume.
Echoing the sentiments of Derry U20 football manager Paddy Bradley, Devaney believes the longer the limbo period extends, the more difficult in finding a window for the underage Championships in 2021.
At last week’s briefing, the GAA confirmed they’d received exemption from government for senior inter-county to resume but were still waiting clearance for the county minor and U20 grades.
“I don’t understand why the U20s and minors haven’t been given the green light in that respect because it’s going to place a bit of a pressure on the Association the longer that barrier stands there because there is the expectation that players will be able to play in those age groups and then move on,” said Devaney.
“If that doesn’t happen, does that expectation push that into next year? I’d say it’s a frustrating position for Croke Park to be in.”
The GAA released its fixtures masterplan for the county and club split seasons with all competitions pencilled in – apart from county minor and U20.
The club season has been outlined in detail even though restrictions still prohibit them from playing games.
“That’s the hole that seems to be there is in relation to the minor and the U20. To be fair to the GAA, the issue is that government hasn’t extended the opportunity for that.
“So they can return for League and Championship football and hurling at the moment as per the government guideline.
“I think government has decided to open the door slightly for elite status, for senior inter-county, but doesn’t want to pull it open entirely for all levels,” said the Down chairman.
“They seem to be taking it step by step but that doesn’t help the situation in relation to these grades and you think, is there any real reason [for this] now that clubs are resuming training and the county minors and U20s can’t? I don’t really see a reason why not.”
The GAA remain confident the 2021 U20 and minor Championships in both football and hurling and the outstanding games from the 2020 Championships will be played.
Devaney said: “It’s probably going to have to happen somewhere along the senior inter-county season because once you get to the end of that time-frame the expectation will be club-only.”
The National Football Leagues will be played on a regional basis with Down having three games against Meath, Westmeath and Mayo – a truncated version given that the pandemic shaved off a further seven weeks of the inter-county season.
“These regionalised leagues can in some cases look a bit top-heavy but I suppose there is an opportunity to go into play-offs. There is probably not a lot that could have been done about this. If they were going to play a league they had to split it in some way.
“It’s still two up, two down – and we’re in a group with two teams who were playing Division One last year.”
The GAA’s Director of Player, Club and Games Administration, Feargal McGill said the Association was forced to opt for another knock-out football Championship as they would have needed three more weeks to re-introduce a back-door format but were keen to protect the club-only season.
“There is no second chance in the Championship and you will have teams who will be finished their entire season by the last weekend of June,” Devaney mused.
“I can see that’s hard to swallow but I can probably understand it too because the Association is trying to make the best of the small window and for a lot of counties the League is actually more important than Championship.
“But, overall, there is an element of relief that activity can resume, that people can get out there. There is a bit of light and players will be able to see that.”