Tipperary club Ballina last night defied Central Council’s edict last Saturday that no player who turns 17 this year can play U21 for their club.
As it was suggested that Ard Chomhairle could today alter their interpretation, Ballina faced Kilruane McDonaghs in a North Tipperary U21 B football final in Puckane with a number of their U17 players.
They had six in the panel in the early rounds of the competition who had been legal to play up to Wednesday when Central Council’s call came into effect.
Kilruane McDonaghs opted not to field their U17 players for fear that the players would not be insured.
Tipperary secretary Tim Floyd informed Ballina, McDonaghs, and the rest of the clubs in the county of the news that despite the board executive’s attempts to make Central Council postpone their decision, it was final.
However, despite insurance concerns and possible expulsion from the competition Balina stood firm against the GAA high-powered committee’s decision. A statement by the club secretary Gerry McKeogh yesterday read: ‘We have played U21 football two weeks ago and are scheduled to play a North Tipperary Final tonight.
‘We have used players born in 2002 already in this competition and will struggle to field without them. We can’t stand over any change in eligibility rules with less than 24 hours notice. We will field a team tonight according to the wording of Riall 6.17 OG 2018, which holds credence over any incorrect interpretation of Riall 6.17 OG 2018.
‘We feel that we are not alone in objecting to this undemocratic change of rule and urge other clubs to voice their disappointment at this unprecedented step by Central Council.
‘Furthermore, we will not be objecting to Kilruane MacDonaghs or any subsequent team in the U21 Hurling or/or Football Championships who fields in accordance with Riall 6.17 OG 2018.’
Limerick’s U21 hurling championship is also already underway and any U17 players who have thus far played in that are now no longer entitled to do so. As the likes of Cork divisions this weekend and Clare the weekend after next begin similar competitions, several complaints have been made to Croke Park about the reading of the rule.
In Wexford for Congress, Central Council agreed the minimum age for players representing their clubs at U21 level was 17 on January 1, thus preventing those who celebrate their 17th birthdays in 2019 from playing. However, that was never the understanding of several counties when the rule was amended at last year’s Congress.
In the email to Tipperary clubs late on Wednesday, Floyd wrote: ‘Following the ruling as advised below from a meeting of Central Council last Saturday, February 23, 2018 and confirmed today by Munster Council, Coiste Chontae Thiobraid Árann wishes to advise all our clubs that from today, February 27 a player must be aged 17 (or over) on January 1 2019 to play in this year’s remaining 2019 U21 Football championship and the 2019 U21 Hurling Championship.
‘Coiste Chontae Thiobraid Árann has exhausted all avenues to have this ruling deferred, but to no avail, so unfortunately, we are forced to follow the ruling as advised.’