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Report: GAA To Curb Competitive Games For Players Under 12

11 April 2017; A general view of play during the The Go Games Provincial Days in partnership with Littlewoods Ireland Day 2 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
By PJ Browne Updated
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The GAA is reportedly set curb competitive games for players under the age of 12.

The Irish News reported that an email sent by the association to counties stated that there should not be "any competitive aspect" to these games.

Competitive aspects would include the keeping of scores, competitions which have knockout stages, and the awarding of medals and trophies.

It's said that clubs hosting or attending blitzes must make an application for approval to their county's games development manager.

Games for players up to the age of 12 come under the GAA Go Games category, which according to the association's website are "where every child gets to play (a Go) in every game, for the full game." It's added that "an over-emphasis on competitive outcomes (which usually come from coaches and parents) are major reasons for dropout".

16 September 2019; A general view of the parade during the #GAAgaeilge Go Games at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile


The clampdown should not be a major surprise considering director general Tom Ryan's annual report to the 2023 GAA congress addressed the need to "arrest the creeping competitiveness" within Gaelic games at early underage levels.

"In too many instances, however, we are failing to live up to our creed," said Ryan.

"Too much ‘meaning’ is being assigned to games for the 7-11 age cohort. Where blitzes and fun predominated, we now see the emergence of leagues for such age groups. We also have the growing emergence of unofficial tournaments which are being treated like All-Irelands for children as young as 10 years of age or younger. We hear of the “best” children playing while others are left on the sideline.


"The damage that this does to children, families, clubs and the Association is profound. A recent audit by the Child Safeguarding Committee on behalf of Sport Ireland found that 46% of clubs (718 clubs out of the 1559 club submissions) reported complaints by parents over lack of playing time for their children as one of the main issues brought to the attention of the Club Children’s Officer or the relevant Committee Club Children’s Officer. In 30 of the 32 counties of Ireland the ‘lack of playing time for children in our clubs’ was the main complaint or breach of the Code of Behaviour (Underage) that our clubs reported.

"Take reassurance from the fact that experience of juvenile Gaelic games is still hugely positive for the overwhelming majority. The instances I mention are not widespread. But take care as well. We need to be on our guard and arrest the creeping competitiveness."

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