Under-20 and minor inter-county clashes have been paused (Image: ©INPHO/Tom O’Hanlon)
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Underage coaches have reacted with frustration to news that the minor and under-20 inter-county seasons have been “paused”.
After the Government stated that inter-county games could proceed on Monday night despite moving to Level 5 restrictions for six weeks from today, it was widely assumed that underage grades were included in the exemption.
But, when a NPHET letter on Tuesday specifically stated that it extended to “senior inter-county” activity, the GAA sought clarification, with the Department of Sport confirming yesterday that no underage games can take place under Level 5.
A total of eight minor and under-20 games were down for decision this weekend, the All-Ireland under-20 football final between Dublin and Galway chief among them, along with another two for Monday night, though three games in the Leinster under-20 hurling Championship went ahead as planned last night before Level 5 kicked in at midnight.
The various competitions in these grades have been “paused until further notice”, said the GAA, and while there may be a window of opportunity before Christmas to play the under-20 football final, the other Championships had only just started or were about to get underway and it will require some creative thinking in order to complete them in 2021, should the GAA elect to do so.
The manner in which the matter was communicated to the GAA from the Government has left a sour taste in Croke Park
There could have been no qualms if it was made clear on Monday night that underage games were out of the question, though it was a further 36 hours or so before this came to light and it’s particularly disappointing for the Dublin and Galway under-20 players who had continued to prepare for the biggest game of their lives in the interim.
Galway chairman Pat Kearney said that while he accepts the decision given the gravity of the health crisis, “it’s very disappointing for the players and their parents who have put in huge effort”.
Offaly minor hurling manager Leo O’Connor, who led his side to an encouraging victory over Laois last Saturday and was preparing for a Leinster quarter-final against Kildare on Sunday, told RTE that the “lack of clarity on the situation has been immense”.
He added: “These young fellas are in school, they’re doing everything right during the day and when they’re coming in with us, they were temperature-checked every night.
“We had a marquee with the sides lifted up when we needed to chat to them so we were chatting to them in open air.
“Everything has been done to perfection, as best we can. It’s just very, very frustrating at this stage when you hear the word ‘paused’ and, due to the lack of clarity that has come out of this, what does the word ‘paused’ mean even at this stage?
“Are they going to revisit it in January? February?
“These young fellas, they’re under-18 years then when that’s happening so starting a competition, putting it on pause, it’s very frustrating for everyone and the parents in particular.”