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Minor, U17 or U18.. Croke Parks take on it....

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Congress 2016, agreed that from January 1st 2018:
That Minor inter-county age grade be moved from 18 to 17 (68% to 32%)
The knock-on effect was that county minors were no longer eligible for adult club competition (“Decoupling”)
A number of motions from clubs in the interim have sought to reverse this decision – including at Congress 2022
In addition, a Central Council motion at Congress 2022 sought to replace the current U20 inter county championships with U19 championships. This was narrowly defeated (received 55% support)
Post Congress 2022, the Uachtarαn set up a Work Group to re-examine the whole question of age grades in the Association.
Report Taskforce on Player Burnout – Dr. Pat O Neill
Recommended amalgamation of Under 18 and 21 for Under 19
Limited training load for underage squads
Strong focus on making players available to clubs post 19
Raising the age-threshold at county level to U.19 will provide greater bone and joint maturity and thereby reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries
Mobilising Forces (2012)
•   Under 17 a Developmental Age-Grade and is decoupled from Adult
•   Under 19 is the first recognised Inter-County Age-Grade in terms of All-Ireland Competitions
Report of the Minor Review Workgroup (2015) (Incl. Medical Science and Welfare Committee)
•   Demands on young 'talented players is unsustainable' leading to overuse injuries and player burnout
•   Motion passed limiting eligibility to play adult to Over 17’s
•   Recommended piloting club age-grades at Under 13, 15, 17 and 19 (or 20)
Keeping Them in the Game: Taking Up and Dropping Out of Sport and Exercise in Ireland. ESRI (2013)
 'Most drop-out events probably surround a life change, such as leaving education
•   ESRI – 16-19 twice as high as Soccer
•   Drop-off in Gaelic Games between 12–21-year-old was 58%
•   Retention Study (2016) greatest drop off between 15-17 across all sports

Review of 2016 Decision
   Group looked at relevance of reasons for change in 2016
   Agreed the reasons for DECOUPLING and changing from U18 to U17 Inter County in 2016 are still relevant. 
1.   To reduce the number of teams/managers a player is answerable to (one age grade between developmental and adult at inter-county)
2.   Remove 18 as a key age grade - lessen responsibility on senior cycle exam players (Data shows senior cycle exam pupils evenly spread between U18s and U19s now)
3.   Fixture planning – by decoupling U17’s from adult games programme - U17 inter-county competitions do not affect the adult games programme and vice versa
4.   Addressed the demands of being available to multiple teams on players at that age – and by extension overtraining/overuse injuries
5.   Reduced fixture clashes (players being made to choose between one game/team and another); or worse opting to play both in a short period of time.
   Group keenly aware that examining a return to U18 at inter county as final “Youth” grade was a key responsibility
   Also looked at what did not happen since 2016 decision (and needs to happen):
1.   Education of Units regarding Association Policy on Age Grades and what we are trying to achieve (i.e., to protect, retain, and grow underage playing base; reduce issues affecting games programme for adult players)
2.   Tiered and developmental U17 inter-county competitions (old model still in use)
3.   Failure to address the developmental “gap” at inter-county (U17 – U20)
4.   Lack of appropriate games programme for some club players post-U17 for variety of reasons (incl. split season, Covid etc)
5.   Lack of “buy in” to U19 in some counties
6.   Impact of Covid on all of the above
   Lack of clarity, sense of uncertainty and a feeling (in some instances) that we were better with what we had

Underage Task Force - Findings   
•   The importance of “De-Coupling” (i.e. at what age youth players can play senior club competition)
   Fixture planning/reduces teams players available for, managers answerable too etc.
•   Inter County and Club have to be considered as two separate questions - different imperatives and priorities for both
   Inter county should be around
•   The protection & appropriate development of our talented players over 17 – Senior.
•   Debate is relevant to a small number of players
   Club should be around:
•   Player retention & whether age grades can play a positive role in maximising the number of player who transition to adult.
•   The provision of regular and meaningful games
•   Impact on adult games programme
Debate involves the vast majority of players
   Strong view - one inter-county competition grade post U17/U18 and before senior
–   Availability of players to clubs
–   Reduces number of teams a player is eligible for/coaches answerable to
–   Congestion in inter-county calendar
–   Unsustainable cost for counties
–   Potential affect on 2nd and 3rd Level
   Two options at inter-county
   Option 1:
–   Revert to U18 at inter-county
–   Next grade up to be U20
–   Necessity of club decoupling at 18 for this model to work
Option 2:
–   Retain inter-county at U17
–   Next grade up to be U19

Option 1 - U18 and U20 Inter-county
–   Return to U18 as final Youth/Development grade at inter county
–   Final grade before Senior to be U20
–   Club decoupling would have to be at 18 nationally (i.e. a player must be 18 on January 1st of a given year in order to play Adult)
1.   Provides for an elongated talent development process (delays deselection process by a year)
2.   Extra year for players to develop before playing Adult at club (U20 at inter county)
3.   More likely to identify future elite players at 18 than 17
4.   Culture and tradition
5.   No need for any change to current U20 inter county age grade
1.   Is at odds with various detailed and well researched GAA reports
a.   All reports and research supported decoupling
b.   Mobilising Forces suggested 17 as final developmental age
c.   Minor Review group also identified 17; Talent Academy Report reinforced this
2.   Necessity of decoupling – U18s could not play adult club if U18 reintroduced
3.   Impact of senior cycle exams – May & June largely unusable for U18 competitions
4.   U20 intercounty greater crossover with senior inter-county panels (10% v 5%), training windows etc.
5.   U18 will have greater impact on 2nd Level Schools (Feb/March)
6.   U20 competitions will have greater crossover with 3rd Level

Task Force Recommendation on Inter-county U18
Task force are NOT recommending a return to U18 at inter-county level largely  because
1.   Runs contrary to previous reports (little has changed in interim)
2.   Impact on clubs of introducing national decoupling at 18
3.   U20 or 21 as the next grade – increased cross over Senior inter-county/Third level

Option 2 – U17 and U19 Inter-County
–   U17 as final youth/development age at inter-county
–    U19 the competitive grade before senior inter-county
1.   Consistent with the findings of Talent Academy & other reports
2.   Many elements in place - i.e. no major change needed, only tweaks
3.   Less crossover with 2nd and 3rd Level programmes 
4.   Less crossover with senior inter county panels (U19 v U20)
5.   More time in calendar allows for round robin or tiered championships
6.   Allows for U19 inter-county to be played alongside senior inter-county championships 
55% support at Congress ‘22 for U17 & U19
1.   Development gap post U19 inter-county – filled by participation with clubs, 3rd level, inter-county adult
2.   Impact of senior cycle exams on U19 (break in season)
3.   Overcoming tradition and culture

Summary – Inter County   
Task Force strongly recommends U17 at inter-county with U19 as the final grade before adult inter-county

Age Grades at Club Level
   Different dynamics at play than at inter-county
   Reminder:
   Inter-county priorities should be
•   the protection & appropriate development of our talented players over 17 to Senior
•   Debate is relevant to a small number of players
   Club priorities about:
•   player retention & whether age grades can play a positive role in maximising the number of player who transition to adult.
•   Provision of regular and meaningful games
•   Impact on Adult games programme
Debate involves vast majority of players
   Decoupling is at the heart of our ability to provide games, and to minimize negative impact on the adult games programme.
   It is acknowledged in the context of the above that there are considerably different needs in different counties.
-   Numbers of players in each age category may differ significantly between Counties (Club sizes – e.g. Leitrim one club per 1,300 players; Mayo one club per 2,000 as opposed to Meath/Kildare – 1 club per c. 3,500 etc)
-   Players in some counties accommodated post U17 in Adult teams (2nd or 3rd teams); not so in others
Rural and urban divide (within counties)
   A “one size fits all” model may not therefore be the best approach.
   It may be that this is something best left to each individual County to assess based on their own needs.
   In this context, there are a number of options available to the GAA to adopt as National Policy, while still allowing for flexibility in terms of Age Grades in each County.
   Decoupling MUST be a part of any option to avoid the problems of the past (overtraining/overuse/fixture planning etc)

Option 1
Current Policy – U17 is final Developmental Age Grade
   Decoupling - U17s cannot play Adult Club
   Counties must run U13, U15 and U17 as a minimum requirement
   Counties who wish to play U12/14/16 in addition to these may do so in consultation with GDC/Central Council
   Counties should run at least one age grade between U17 and Senior/Adult
Option 2
Amend national policy to allow Counties that wish to have U18 as final mandatory age grade to do so (both codes)
   Decoupling – Such counties would have a bye law that players in the U18 age grade within the county cannot play adult football or hurling
   Other grades – minimum requirement of U12, U14, U16
   (No need for Rule Change centrally – would be a matter for each county to receive permission from Central Council/GDC for their preferred model, subject to oversight- i.e. the provision of minimum games programmes, and an approved de-coupling bye law locally)
Option 3
Revert to U18 as final developmental age grade nationally (at club level)
   Decoupling – All counties to de-couple at 18 (i.e. players in the U18 age grade would not be permitted to play adult football or hurling)
   Other grades – minimum requirement of U12, 14 and 16
(Requires Rule Change)

   Work Group strongly recommends U17 at inter-county with U19 as the final grade before adult inter-county
   There are options other than the current policy available to use at club level
   Asking you to discuss these and the main points of this presentation within your County
   Revert to us with your counties view


Option 1 is the best option for me. However small rural clubs may find it difficult to field teams if the u-18 can't field for adult teams. I suppose there'd be a knockdown effect down the different age groups changing from odd to even ages.

Smokin Joe:
The change to U17 and U19 isn't working, at least in Armagh in my opinion, anyway.

The U19 competition is almost non-existent (maybe a few games per year) with the result that a 17 year old lad (unless he is a genuine star) won't get much club  football as they won't be fit for senior.
Like U19s, the reserve football only provides a few games per year.

Changing back to U18 would give that 17 year old lad another full year of competitive football where he will be matched better physically.

There's no silver bullet to fix this. I understood some of the arguments for separating underage and adult football. The theory there was fine, but it hasn't worked as well as expected.

There's now a bigger gap between juvenile and adult football than there ever was and most clubs can't field an U19 team without the 2 or 3 lads that are fit to play senior football so you can't run that competition at the same time. I don't think any clubs are going to accept U18s not playing adult football outside the few really big clubs.

Option 1 will probably more votes though, I think more people think it needs changed either way.


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