GAA Football

Silverbridge preparing motion to return minor to U18

THE GAA could be forced back into a debate on the controversial alteration of underage grades if the Armagh County Board backs a motion to revert to U14/16/18.

Silverbridge Harps are in the process of drafting a proposal for the county’s convention that would seek to reignite the debate on an issue that has affected clubs and counties across Ireland.

On the back of a proposal by Monaghan to Congress in 2014, a discussion paper entitled ‘Player overtraining and burnout, and the GAA fixtures calendar’ was drawn up, through which the GAA began a process of altering its existing age grades.

The traditional U14/16/18 age groupings were subsequently changed to U13/15/17 at inter-county level, since when Croke Park has encouraged counties to move their club competitions into line.

A ruling was also then put in place that raised the minimum age at which players could play adult from U17 to U18, effectively de-linking underage and adult games across the board.

A motion was passed at last year’s Congress allowing counties to determine their own internal underage grades, subject to Central Council policy. However, given that inter-county competitions as well as provincial club tournaments are run on the national U13/15/17 age grades, many counties have opted against reverting back to ‘even’ years at the risk of disadvantaging their own clubs.

One of the primary issues reported by clubs since the change has been the increased difficulty in bringing young players through to adult football and hurling.

Some counties have attempted to bridge the gap through U19 or U20 competitions but the overlap between those teams and senior squads has led to mass non-playing of games.

Armagh were one of those to hold an U19 competition this year but Silverbridge, who are bringing the motion forward, played just five games, with the rest of their fixtures conceded by one side or the other.

Motions from clubs or counties have tended not to enforce major structural change such as this on the GAA in recent years, but if Silverbridge receive the support of clubs in Armagh then they will hope to at least start fresh debate on the topic.

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