Two Laois men are leading the charge on the GAA to allow 17-year-olds play adult hurling and football.
Since last year, players have to be in their last year of minor to play for their club’s adult team but Annanough native Dominic Stapleton – who is now secretary of Monasterevin GAA club in Kildare – and Pat O’Connell from Courtwood are bringing a motion to this month’s GAA Congress hoping to have that rule reversed.
They argue that rule has made it “increasingly difficult for small clubs to field teams”, have “reduced opportunities for players in their prime (aged 20-30)” and have “offered a prime opportunity to competitor sports, who have no such ban on 17-year-olds playing at adult level, to draw our young players away from the GAA”.
The men – who are first cousins – successfully got motions carried at the Laois and Kildare GAA conventions in December and have since got a number of other counties on board.
Wicklow, Kilkenny, Tyrone and Cork are all sponsoring the motion also while they have also contacted every county secretary in Ireland as well as number of clubs in each county looking for further support. They will need to get two-thirds support to have the rule passed.
Below is the letter they have sent around the country to various GAA outlets explaining their reason behind their motion.
As secretary of your county you are no doubt aware of the rule change introduced at the start of 2016 which prevents 17-year-olds from playing with clubs in adult competition. This rule change has had a devastating effect on small clubs throughout the length and breath of the country with already hard pressed clubs finding it increasingly difficult to field teams in adult competitions.
The effect of this rule change has not alone impacted on the 17-year-old player himself (a player that in many counties is limited to a small number of minor and u17 games ) but it has also –
- Made it increasingly difficult for small clubs to field teams,
- Increased the number of cancellations and walkovers in competitions with a consequent impact on the fixtures schedules
- Diminished the integrity of numerous competitions where walkovers were given
- Reduced playing opportunities for players in their prime (20–30 ) where the club were unable to field a team but would have managed to fulfil these fixtures if the handful of 17-year-olds were permitted to play.
- Offered a prime opportunity to competitor sports, who have no such ban on 17-year-olds playing at adult level, to draw our young players away from the GAA.
The longer term effect of the ban on 17 year olds is also a serious concern given that –
- If the club cannot field teams then players will drift away to other big/urban clubs or other competing sports,
- The adult players in their 20s will drift away from the GAA altogether if the club can not provide games for them. These are the young men who, down the line, we hope to carry the torch for the association in the local community by taking on club officerships.
The Monasterevan club in Co Kildare and the Courtwood club in Co Laois have worked together to propose an amendment to the rule governing age eligibility proposing that 17-year-olds be allowed play adult grades. Both clubs were overwhelmingly successful at their respective county conventions and the proposed rule change is now going forward to Congress in February. We understand similar motions are being put forward by like-minded clubs in other counties.
We are calling on all clubs and county boards in the association to review this proposed rule change with a view to instructing your counties delegates to Congress to support the proposed rule change. In the first instance please ensure that it gets a fair hearing among the clubs of your county and at County Board level.