New Kerry U20 football boss John Sugrue has slammed the changes that have been made to the age grade as “farcical”, suggesting the GAA is too quick to respond to criticism when it comes to football.
“I think the hurling people are far more stable in themselves, they have that bit more stability in their thought process. But, in football, we look like we are trying to please everyone all of the time,” Sugrue said. “The minute someone raises their hand and says that something is not right, we almost go and try and change it.”
Former Laois manager Sugrue is unhappy that the U20 competition — which he describes as the fourth or fifth most important in the calendar — has been condensed into six weeks early in the year, when there are so many competing demands on the players involved.
“We got notification that the championship was moving dates about six weeks ago. We got notification that a development league before that championship was happening a week ago. To my mind, that is farcical. I don’t think it gives teams a good chance.
“We had a schedule drawn up, next thing we are told that we can’t have challenge matches. We’ve had to redraft our whole thing.
“Everybody is in the same scenario but, to my mind, someone somewhere is not really putting their foot on it saying we are doing this calendar-wise, we are doing this rules-wise, we are changing dates and rules and timing of competitions.
“The O’Byrne Cup started the weekend before last and they are talking about shortening the inter-county season and they brought it forward a month.
“They brought forward the All-Ireland final a month, but that is only moving everything a month around. Shortly, we’ll have the All-Ireland final in June and the McGrath Cup and O’Byrne Cup in October. That is the craic that’s going on at present,” added Sugrue.
Kerry U20s will get their 2020 campaign under way with a trip to either Tipperary or Limerick on February 19.
Should they win, the Munster final takes place the following week, with the All-Ireland semi-finals on St Patrick’s Day and the All-Ireland final on March 28 or 29.
“We’re playing what I would categorise as the fourth or fifth highest-ranked competition in the country,” said Sugrue.
Take away the All-Ireland Championship, the All-Ireland Club Championship, you could contest about the Sigerson Cup and the individual county championships at senior level.
“We are being given a diktat that we can’t have challenge games, we are being given a diktat that sees school teams have the call on players before we do, we’re also getting the scenario that the competition is being run off over six weeks to get 32 teams down to one. It’s up to the general public to decide what they think of that.
“I really like to see schools go well, because that’s your locality, another identity in your GAA life — but telling a fella that he can’t play Kerry U20, even though he fully qualifies and maybe fully deserves to be on the team, I’m not sure about that as a kind of directive from the GAA.”
Most of Sugrue’s panel will play in the McGrath Cup before the commencement of the U20 development league, where Kerry is in a three-team group with Cork and Galway.
“Myself and Peter Keane have spoken and we haven’t fully finalised what we are going to do yet,” he said. “I’ve no idea how many non-U20s will be playing yet (in the McGrath Cup), but it’s no big deal, it’s just a developmental thing.
“As for how many of the new lads that Peter has called up to senior training will get a game, we haven’t decided yet. But hopefully a number of them will, because in terms of physicality I don’t think it’s fair that we would put out 15 U20s to play against the senior teams, so we will try and work it out some way.”