‘U21s playing toughest time of the year’ in GAA

Kerry selector John Shanahan believes the scheduling of the All-Ireland U21 football championship is impractical and wants a summer start to the competition.

The Kerry U21 selector is adamant the current timing of the provincial and All-Ireland championships during March and April is not fair on young footballers already struggling in a hectic spring schedule.

To illustrate his point, Shanahan points to an U21 footballer’s various third-level commitments on and off the pitch, club commitments, as well as the small minority lining out in the Allianz league.

“The U21 hurling championship is played at the right time, is played on dry sod in the heat of summer. Why can’t our U21 competition be scheduled alongside it from June onwards,” he argued.

“We do feel U21 footballers are playing at the toughest time of year. There is a lot of pressure on them.

“They are in college and facing into exams in January when most teams are returning to training. Furthermore, this competition runs into April by which time lads are preparing for summer exams. It isn’t easy on them.”

Kerry last enjoyed Munster U21 glory in 2008, falling to Cork at the quarter-final juncture over the past two years. Shanahan is also in favour of introducing a backdoor format for the U21 championship.

“We entered the Hastings Cup this year to secure more games for the lads. It was something we needed to try. The players come back in with us, play the first round and, if they are beaten, they are done for the year.

“We felt they needed something else because there is no backdoor system, which I don’t agree with.

“You come out of minor and there might be lads who skip through the net at U21 and don’t have any inter-county football that year.

“They come back in then the next year and there is no back door for U21, added to playing it at the wrong time of year. It isn’t right.”

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