Kerry GAA officials expect proposed re-introduction of U18 grade to be rejected

The executive are already receiving strong feedback that the idea of preventing 17-year-olds from playing adult for clubs will not wash in rural areas where depopulation has long been impacting player numbers.
Kerry GAA officials expect proposed re-introduction of U18 grade to be rejected

Kerry's Colm Browne with Conor O'Neill, Sean Hughes and Callum Daly of Tyrone. ©INPHO/Tommy Grealy

Kerry GAA officials expect the options to re-introduce the U18 grade but crucially decoupled from adult level will be rejected when the proposals are discussed at next Tuesday’s county board meeting.

Two of three suggestions put forward by the ages grade task force allow the qualified return of U18. However, the executive are already receiving strong feedback that the idea of preventing 17-year-olds from playing adult for clubs will not wash in rural areas where depopulation has long been impacting player numbers.

One option allows counties to reintroduce U18 as minor on application to Croke Park, while another would see it brought back across the board nationally. However, both stipulate eligible footballers and hurlers would not be permitted to play at senior, intermediate or junior level.

Another proposal from the committee, which featured the four provincial chairmen, outlines the retention of the current U17 grade with at least one more age grade prior to senior.

The favoured option of the taskforce, that could receive more of an audience from Kerry’s clubs with a mind to U19 becoming the new minor grade and the return of the U21 level. Players at U19 would be permitted to line out with their clubs’ adult sides.

Meanwhile, Kerry have sent observations to Croke Park on a number of issues around matches including a limited maor foirne and the abuse of the sin bin.

Kerry have outlined the possibility of the running selector being reintroduced albeit on a limited basis of three pitch incursions per half. They recognise any abuse of the privileges would have to be dealt with severely and lead to a suspension of those rights as a result.

It is felt that the current situation, which prohibits all but medics entering the field, will lead to management teams bending rules so that messages can be relayed from the sideline to the players.

Kerry’s idea of a restricted maor foirne is likely to have support from the likes of their fellow All-Ireland senior winners Limerick whose manager John Kiely explained a similar idea following July’s final victory over Kilkenny.

While Kerry have also officially expressed their concern at how the 10-minute sin bin is open to time-wasting as it does not factor in stoppages.

In July’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin, opposing goalkeeper Evan Comerford fell to the ground following Lorcan O’Dell’s foul on Gavin White, which resulted in a penalty. The delay was three minutes, which cut into the time John Small was off the field for an earlier black card foul and held up the taking of Seán O’Shea’s penalty, which was saved by Comerford.

Despite the victory, manager Jack O’Connor criticised the time-wasting, insisting the rule had to be changed. “This craic that you can lie down and waste three minutes off a black card, that’s ridiculous," he said. "To what degree can you exploit that? If that’s the case sure everyone could get players lying down for five minutes and waste half the black card, do you know what I’m saying?”

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