Kerry U20 manager Jack O’Connor has reiterated his criticism of the rule which prevents inter-county footballers from playing U20 and senior championship in the same season.
Kerry begin their Munster U20 campaign this evening with a home semi-final against Limerick (Austin Stack Park, 7.30pm), but are forced to make do without David Clifford and Diarmuid O’Connor — two players who were instrumental in this group winning the 2017 All-Ireland minor title — because they have already lined out for the county seniors this summer.
Further irritating O’Connor, who is bidding to guide the county to a third consecutive provincial crown at this grade, is that the rule preventing talented youngsters from doubling up at U20 and senior level is exclusive to football given it has not yet been applied to hurling. That someone as capable as All-Star David Clifford won’t ever get to play U20 football, he added, lessens the competition.
“The fact that some counties are losing their best players definitely takes from it,” said the Kerry boss.
I cannot think of any other competition where your best players are not available to you. It does not pertain to hurling, so to that extent, it is dumbed down a bit.
"We are doing the best with the players we have and we are preparing them the best we can.”
The old U21 championship was taken out of its March/April/early May slot when the age of eligibility dropped to U20 as it was felt players already had enough on their plate during springtime. But O’Connor sees the month of July as being just as busy.
“There is no ideal time for it, to be honest. It has proved to be difficult this year with college exams, the Leaving Cert, and a lot of club activity thrown in on top of that. But, on the other hand, the players are at home given college is now over and that means we have access to them during the week for training.
It is a help from a training point of view that it is on this time of year, but, on the flip side, there is an awful lot of activity on at present and it’s like a minefield threading through it.
He continued: “We got as much as we could out of the John Kerins Cup and one of the reasons we did not play our final group game against Kildare was the fact lads were expected to play county league with their clubs. Four games in a week would be too much of a risk with regard to the welfare of the players.”
That this evening’s opponents were able to dump out Tipperary in the latter’s home patch means they cannot be overlooked, argued the multi All-Ireland winning minor and senior manager.
“If we were going up to Thurles to play Tipperary, we would be expecting a right battle in their backyard. So for Limerick to go up there and beat them shows that they have to be respected. We certainly will not be taking Limerick lightly.”