Ronan and the possible demise of minor and U21s

This ever-advancing darkness isn’t, I find, conducive to thinking about stuff relating to Gaelic football, less still to writing about it. Hence the lack of activity here, which is likely to remain the case till things crank up again early in the New Year. But there are the odd few nuggets, two to be precise, knocking around which deserve a mention. Just in case the headline above causes any confusion, I’m referring to two separate stories and am not suggesting that Ronan (McGarritty, that is) has had any part in the plans to chop the minor and U21 championships. Not that I know of anyway.

Okay, Ronan first. There was an interview with him in yesterday’s Times (sub req’d) to coincide with the launch of this year’s Railway Cup competition (sorry, the M Donnelly Interprovincials), which covered his recent cancer scare and where he spoke briefly about the county side. ‘Bright’ and ‘right’ was how he summed up where we’re at – we have, he reckons, the players and the management, all we’re missing I suppose is the Sam. Were it only that simple. It will, however, be good to have Ronan back next year: his absence really cost us dish ear and it would be just fantastic to see him turn in the kind of performance he had against Galway in McHale Park in 2006 against the same opposition at the same venue next year. That would be both bright and right, I reckon.

The Times also reports today that the GAA’s task force on burnout has come up with the proposal that the current minor and U21 grades be scrapped for an experimental two-year period in favour of a new U19 level. In one sense, this isn’t a bad idea as an U19 level could produce a very watchable championship but I’m not convinced that inter-county minor and U21 is the problem as regards burnout.

For the majority of counties, both campaigns are short and condensed into a few weeks (the Connacht championship doesn’t take over two months to complete, unlike its senior equivalent) and another difference from senior is that you tend to get a good spread of counties coming through to the All-Ireland series. This latter reason is also a fairly strong argument against scrapping the two existing underage levels: All-Ireland football titles aren’t all that well spread out at the minute and it’s likely there would be a further contraction were we to move from three to two grades. Somehow I doubt if this proposal will find favour with the GAA’s nomenklatura.

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