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U-20 players should play at their own age grade first, says Laois GAA secretary

Photo: Paul Dargan

Laois GAA secretary Niall Handy has said that county underage players should play at their own grade first and that should be adopted as policy going forward.

Writing in his annual report to this year’s Laois GAA convention, Niall Handy references the controversy earlier this year when senior footballers Mark Barry and Sean O’Flynn were initially prevented by the senior management from playing in the U-20 championship when games were on the same weekend.

The two players did eventually play with the U-20s but Handy believes that the County Board should adopt a policy where players in that position should play with their own age grade first.

“One issue that must be addressed and I believe will be in a form of motion before next Congress, will be where a player who participates in an Allianz League game, will then become ineligible to play for his U-20 team in that year’s competition,” he writes.

“It was an issue that happened internally with some players involved with both senior and U-20 panels this year and no doubt undue pressure was exerted on these players when the decision came to choose a particular grade.

“Whilst I wouldn’t be rushing to incorporate into rule, as the situation may differ from
county to county based on population, my opinion is quite clear in that they should play at
their own grade first, and I believe it should be a County Executive policy decision.”

While the U-20 grade has had different formats and been played at different times of the year since it was changed from U-21 in 2018, Handy says that it is likely to be reduced to U-19 in the future.

“I do envisage recommendations down the line for it to revert back to an U-19 competition, in line with proposals arising from the Talent Academy & Player Development Review Report, which was chaired by our own Michael Dempsey and released earlier this year.”

Referencing this year’s U-20 team that were beaten in the Leinster final by Dublin he said “the difference in pace and conditioning between the two teams was a little frightening”.

Manager Eddie Kinsella is back for a second year in the role and a provisional panel have been working to a strength and conditioning programme in recent weeks under Pauraic McEvoy and Tom Hargroves.

SEE ALSO – Laois minor footballers and U-20 hurlers get green light to resume before Christmas

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.