Leitrim GAA are to bring the concerns of clubs over the abolition of U-12 competitions to Croke Park after a motion seeking the establishment of the U-12 Championship was ruled out of order at last Sunday’s County Board Convention.
Leitrim Gaels sought that the U-12 Championship be reintroduced for 2013 but Chairman Joe Flynn said that the motion was against Croke Park policy and he would have to rule the motion out of order, a decision which Leitrim Gaels Bernie Goldrick disagreed with vehemently.
Arguing that he wanted a vote on the issue and that it be brought to the GAA, Bernie said that it was a “total disgrace that this motion is being thrown out. There was a directive from Croke Park and now there is no competition for U-12s.
“There is competition in Community Games for U-10s, ten year olds can out and win, there is competition at Primary schools but we cannot look after boys at U-12 level. If you don’t look after the underage, you have nothing. It is alright for a Croke Park directive but they’ll do more if we don’t stand up to it,” said Bernie who complained that blitzes due to take place in Croke Park had been called off due to bad weather and not refixed.
Glencar/Manorhamilton’s Patrick McMorrow supported the principal saying “Surely in Leitrim, we can abide by what Croke Park says but still run a special competition or else the children will lose interest and play other sports where they can win a trophy.”
Coiste na nOg Chairman Terence Boyle pointed out the blitz system was designed to give every player games and that U-12 actually played far more football than they did before - “There is a lot of frustration with the adults but in these blitzes, you have to play all the players but when it comes to competition, some of these players would not get a chance to play, the weaker players would not get a look in. This year the U12s played more football than ever before, two rounds of seven games.”
Joe Flynn said the theory behind the Go-Games model was that there was too much of a competitive element at too young an age but Mal Guckian of Leitrim Gaels said that a lot of thought had been put into the motion and that it was the young children and not the adults who were complaining.
Joe Flynn said there is quite an amount of disquiet among counties but it would need a motion to Congress while Coaching Officer Padraig McGourty said that any decision to re-establish an U-12 competition would have serious implications for the funding of Coaching & Games Development in the county.
Padraig added that the IRFU and soccer were moving to a similar approach – “Other sports are moving to a non-competitive model and the IRFU are looking at the GAA model. Young children are not emotionally able to deal with the kind of criticism mentors give them at underage level.
“The antics of managers on the side-line, the criticism of players and of referees, we do not deal with players the way we should, we deal with them as if they are adults and that is why the U-12 championship was dispensed with.”
Declan Bohan said “I don’t believe the GAA took this decision lightly and there was a lot of analysis and thought put into this. Talking about County championships at U-12 is ridiculous and children of that age should play games in the spirit intended.
“It is the mindset of adults who are getting carried away and if we are getting abuse of referees at blitzes, we should stop them too. As for losing players, I don’t believe any young person, not even adults, are confining themselves to the GAA.
“At adult level, at this time of the year, players are sick of Gaelic games and go off and play other sports. That is not losing players and I don’t believe we ever lose players to other codes, they will keep coming back if the product is good enough.”
Francis Davitt said the Blitz system needed better structure and run in the middle of Summer but there should also be some achievement and goal to aim for. Padraig McGourty also revealed that there may be a re-jigging of underage blitzes in the years ahead with blitzes at U-7, 9 & 11 and a competition at U-13 level.