Football

Tyrone club propose return to U18 without decoupling fixtures

Errigal Ciaran, current Tyrone senior champions, will put a proposal before county convention seeking a return for minor to U18 without the GAA's stipend that minors be banned from playing underage football. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Errigal Ciaran, current Tyrone senior champions, will put a proposal before county convention seeking a return for minor to U18 without the GAA's stipend that minors be banned from playing underage football. Picture by Seamus Loughran Errigal Ciaran, current Tyrone senior champions, will put a proposal before county convention seeking a return for minor to U18 without the GAA's stipend that minors be banned from playing underage football. Picture by Seamus Loughran

ERRIGAL Ciaran are calling on Ulster counties to adopt a motion that offers an alternative to the proposals on underage grades that are set to go before next year’s GAA Congress.

The Tyrone champions are putting a proposal to their own convention and have emailed clubs across Ulster asking them to do likewise as the contentious debate over age grades continues.

Errigal are arguing that counties should be allowed to return to U18 if that is their choice, but that players in their last year of minor at that age group should be allowed to play senior.

The GAA’s task force has put forward two recommendations to counties, both of which insist upon the decoupling of adult and underage fixtures, meaning that whichever cutoff point a county chooses for underage – be it 17 or 18 – then no players eligible for the last underage grade are able to play senior.

Errigal were one of a number of clubs that brought motions to the 2022 Congress. Although their motions fell, the debate sparked led to the formation of a task force by the GAA.

In an email to other clubs, Errigal Ciaran said the task force’s acceptance of the principle of a return to U18 club competition was “very pleasing”, they feel there was “still a major gulf between the view of many clubs and the view of the task force in respect of the issue of decoupling.”

“It is our view that Decoupling is too blunt an instrument and will lead to many unintended consequences for player development at that critical age,” it read.

Acknowledging the need to overcome issues that would be created by moving away from the GAA’s proposals to decouple adult and underage fixtures, the Tyrone club appealed to other clubs around the province to pick up the baton on the debate.

“We understand that many clubs may hold a different view to ourselves, but many appear to be of the same mindset.

“The changes that have taken place over past five years have been done with the best of intentions (i.e. to retain more players within our games and provide a pathway to adult football).

“However, on the ground, it is not working, and every year we wait, another group of lads are missing out as a result.”