Kerry GAA: No underage competitions at even age-grades levels this year

Juvenile competitions will be played at odd age grades only
Kerry GAA: No underage competitions at even age-grades levels this year

The Kerry County Board offices at Austin Stack Park, Tralee. Picture: Dan Linehan

Kerry County Board will not run underage competitions at even age grades in 2021, while there are no guarantees there will be an U19 competition to help young players bridge the gap from juvenile to adult level.

A review of Kerry’s underage structures has decided that for 2021, juvenile competitions will be played at odd age grades only (U11, U13, U15, and U17).

The U12, U14, and U16 age grades will be considered for inclusion in the 2022 Kerry games programme, but for the season forthcoming, a review committee, chaired by Kerry County Board vice-chairman Eamon Whelan, has concluded that competitions be organised at odd age grades only.

The decision taken by Kerry stems from the Croke Park directive at the end of November that U13, U15, and U17 become the primary age grades at juvenile level from 2021 onward.

“The committee feel for year one, at least, games should be played at odd age grades only.

“That is to try and get the balance right, to try and make sure that the programme that’s in place can be implemented,” said Eamon Whelan, “and if we feel that can be implemented and [there is] the need for even age grades after that, we can apply. But for year one, we will stick with odd age grades only.”

Addressing the enlarged gap between juvenile and adult level that has come about as a result of minor dropping from U18 to U17 at club level was not part of the review committee’s remit, but Whelan said there is a determination, “time permitting”, to run U19 competitions this year.

“It was our intention, the senior CCC, at the end of last season, around November time, to have an U19 competition, to see how it worked out. Unfortunately, the levels and restrictions didn’t allow us. But it certainly is the intention, time permitting, to have an U19 competition at some time during the coming season.

“The hope would be that you would pinpoint certain weekends where there is no senior or junior action on and that your U19 would have an opportunity to play on those nights and not be pulled and dragged by other teams. We hope it will work, we will see how it works out.”

Meanwhile, Kerry County Board is holding off setting dates for the 2020 county championship games still outstanding from last year. The Kerry Intermediate and Novice football championships are at semi-final stage, while the finals of the Premier Junior and Junior championships respectively have also still to be played.

Although committed to finishing these competitions, Kerry County Board — unlike Cork and other counties where 2020 games also remain outstanding — has decided for the time being not to set dates for when these postponed championships will be concluded.

“The outstanding fixtures from last year, we haven’t forgotten them. We have to fit them in at some stage because obviously they will have an impact on the 2021 games. My apologies to every trainer and player involved, there is just nothing we can do at the moment. I am sure everybody understands that,” said Kerry GAA secretary Peter Twiss.

Kerry top-brass are also holding off finalising their 2021 master fixture schedule until Croke Park publishes its updated inter-county programme.

“We need the national dates confirmed. When they are, that will give us something to build around. Just to reassure clubs, we are not going to finalise the fixtures calendar until all clubs get an opportunity to submit motions. It is only after those two exercises that we can put together the calendar. We are working a little bit in the dark and we may continue to do so for a while,” Twiss remarked.

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