If the recent weeks of the Under 16 Championship action has told us anything, it has underlined the need for an urgent review of competition structures in the county.
Last Sunday, we had the farcical situation of a Mohill team playing only their second game of the competition after three teams in a five team group failed to field against them. That, of course, is not Mohill’s fault and it did them no good as they were without any sort of match practice as their first game, against Sean O’Heslin’s as it turns out, took place on September 12, not a situation that provides any impetus to improve.
Of the ten group games down for decision, only five actually took place and if anyone is bemoaning the standard of county underage teams, we have to ask our clubs why games that are scheduled are not taking place.
We also had the crazy situation of three 13-a-side Finals and not one 15-a-side Final yet both Mohill and Glencar/Manorhamilton, who won their respective finals, had well in excess of 20 players available – again not their fault as they have the players but there should have been a more equitable division of the teams.
Clubs may be doing their best but the efforts to ensure their teams are playing at lower levels, with the perceived greater chance of winning, does nothing to develop future footballers and more than hints at a win at all costs attitude.
The problem, as clubs are finding out in recent years, that the emphasis on developing one or two players at underage level who can boss it up and down the field, is that the skills of the rest of their players are neglected and the knock-on effect at adult level is all too apparent on the field of play.
There have been efforts over the past few years to redress the situation but until clubs grasp the mettle and try to develop the greatest number of players to the best of their ability, Leitrim football will continue to struggle.