Tralee CBS joint-manager Mike Tim O’Sullivan says the Croke Park decision to axe the Hogan Cup has left “a bitter taste in the mouth of players” and could lead to affected players dropping out of the sport far earlier than might otherwise have been the case.
Tralee CBS won their first Corn Uí Mhurí in 13 years back in February, but last week's announcement that post-primary competitions for the 2019/20 season are to be completed to provincial final stage only means Tralee CBS will not have the opportunity to contest for All-Ireland honours.
The Tralee school were due to meet St Gerald’s Castlebar in the All-Ireland post-primary senior football semi-final, with the make-up of the other semi-final unknown given the Leinster and Ulster deciders had not been played when the country went into lockdown.
Tralee CBS joint-manager O’Sullivan has called on the powers-that-be to reverse their decision to abandon this year’s All-Ireland post-primary competitions.
“We are very disappointed with the decision by the GAA's management committee. We do acknowledge we are operating in unprecedented times and there are constraints in trying to get club and inter-county fixtures played. But our lads have been telling us that, from their point of view, they have the next 10-15 years to be playing club football, whereas they only have one chance of playing in a Hogan Cup.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these fellas and it is being taken away. That is one of the biggest disappointments in all of this. We have spoken with Castlebar. They feel the same as us. They too want to play the competition”
O’Sullivan continued: "These players are the future of the GAA. But if you are going to be cancelling a competition against the players' wishes, when the competition could go ahead, you are going to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of these players with regard to how they view the GAA.
“These players are 17, 18, and 19, they are easily influenced. You could turn a fella off the GAA and discourage lifelong participation because of being mistreated at this stage.”
Given a number of Tralee CBS players will not be returning to the school in autumn and will instead be commencing their third-level education, O’Sullivan said they would happily fulfil the All-Ireland semi-final fixture at any point over the summer. They would also be agreeable to the competition’s remaining fixtures being completed almost blitz-style over a five, six-day period.
“The players have been saying to us, we will play it whenever, wherever, and under whatever circumstances. If it was to be played in October, for example, our lads would drive on again because that is the attitude they have.
“From my own point of view, when I was in Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine, we got to an All-Ireland post-primary C final in 2008. Unfortunately, we lost, but you carry those memories with you for life. Every Christmas when we meet, we speak about our All-Ireland schools final. It is something you'll never forget.
“Our lads kept training away by themselves during lockdown. This was one of the little rays of light that was keeping lads going during it. To pull this away from them when there is no reason for this not to be played is very unfair. When all other competitions are starting back and you only have a handful of games to be played in this particular competition, we just find it very unfair and frustrating the route that has been taken by the GAA’s management committee.”