It is an issue that is currently dividing rugby folk across Munster and threatens to surface across Ireland but there are plenty of solutions to the issue of Munster Senior Schools Cup contenders recruiting players at the expense of rival schools, clubs and inter-provincial youth teams.
All that is needed, according to one observer knowledgeable about the current impasse, is for the opposing sides to sit down across a table and thrash their problems out.
The crux of the matter is a motion passed this month by the Munster Branch’s age-grade committee that will stop players who transfer from one school to another from the 2013-14 school year from competing for their new school in the Munster Senior Schools Cup for a year after enrolling.
The motion was first proposed to the Munster Schools AGM in May by Castletroy College, a community, non fee-paying school in Limerick, but it was not voted on, instead passed on to the Munster Branch, whose committee voted it through.
Those against the motion include John Broderick of St Munchin’s College, who believes recruiting pupils into the fifth year from other schools gives them not only great educational prospects but the best possible chance to develop as players. Barring them from the senior cup for a year, he argues, denies players the opportunity to play at the highest level of underage rugby available to them in the province’s most prestigious competition.
“I would see myself packing in senior schools rugby if this comes in,” said Broderick, who has been coaching for 30 years. “It would destroy the whole excitement for me of the transformational value of giving this opportunity to kids that didn’t get into Munchin’s earlier on, that didn’t get into Ard Scoil Ris, that didn’t get into Crescent early on and giving them the second chance of getting in there after they’ve gone with their clubs.
“They’ve worked hard [at their clubs] and now they’ve got the rugby bug they’re serious about it and ‘now I want to get a shot at this Munster Senior Schools’.
“There’s no other game in town for serious rugby guys, except the Munster Schools Senior Cup competition.”
Those in favour want the playing field levelled, not just between the eight ‘A’ schools which vie for senior cup glory each year but also for the province’s clubs, which put great effort into introducing children to the game only to see them leave at age 16 and 17 and likewise for Munster Youths teams, which represent the province annually in inter-provincial competition but often lose their best players to the schools.
Castletroy College’s Declan English, who also manages the Munster Schools team, sees five strong arguments for bringing in the motion next year. In addition to rival schools, clubs and the Munster Youths set-up losing players they’ve played a big part in developing, English cited lower-grade rugby schools and those players at recruiting schools who are jettisoned when transferees arrive to boost squads.
“There are schools in Munster who want to start playing rugby but have stopped because the bigger schools are coming in and taking their players.
“And another thing is, what happens to the players at those schools who would have started [were it not for the new recruits]? They and their parents are being disenfranchised.
“The Youths and clubs set-up has moved on an awful lot from where it was and the superiority of the schools set-up over them has changed, so they will come through at U19 level, when the pathways converge again, regardless.”
Many within Munster rugby are hoping there can also be a convergence of opinion between the parties.
“This was borne of frustration on the part of the clubs,” a source close to the matter, who did not wish to be named, said. “I know the schools have an issue at the moment but I also know the clubs side of it finds it very hard to engage with the schools at times.
“If they have an issue they seem to go to reporters or to the IRFU . They don’t engage that well with Munster Rugby. It is very easy to heal if they sat down and talked throughout the season.”
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