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GAA Congress: Proposals To Change Underage Grades Fall Short

GAA Congress: Proposals To Change Underage Grades Fall Short
Damien Donohoe
By Damien Donohoe
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Report by Damien Donohoe at GAA Congress from the Connacht Air Dome in Bekan, Co Mayo.

With underage grades being the hot topic at GAA Congress in the Connacht Air Dome, Cumann Aireagal Chiaráin (Tír Eoghain), Cumann Naomh Maolmhaodhóg, Cailean Uidhilín; Cumann Áth Bhriain, Cumann Loch an Oileáin (An Dún) and Carraig Éamonn (Longfort) proposed a motion to give counties autonomy in determining their own underage grades

The motion was defeated with 60.5% going against it. Rule 6.17 states that Central Council policy set the underage grades for all counties but Motion 39 would reverse this decision and allow each county board to make their own decision on whether to go with odd or even age grades.

Tyrone and Longford delegates emphasized that this didn’t change anything each county is doing currently but it allowed counties make the correct call for their own counties needs. Former GAA president Nicky Brennan highlighted the difficulty of organising inter-county development squad competitions while each county could have different club age grades playing in the same calendar window. As a result counties must continue to run underage club competitions in odd age grades (under 13, 15 and 17’s).

With Corduff having withdrawn their motion (motion 40) before Congress and on foot of the discussion that took place around Motion 2 (consolidating minor and U20 into U19), GAA president Larry McCarthy asked the clubs who proposed motions 40 to 43 to withdraw their motion and allow the GAA to come back with an alternative proposal at a Special Congress later this year.

Motions 41 and 42 from Carraig Éamonn, Longford and Killygarry, Cavan are relating to rule 6.17 – Age Grades – Official Guide (Part 1), pages 91-93 be amended by changing the definition of Minor to read as follows:

Minor (Under 18) A player shall have celebrated his 15th birthday(Carraig Éamonn) and his 16th birthday (Killygarry) prior to January 1st and his 18th birthday on or after January 1st of the Championship year.


The rest of the Rule to remain unchanged. With the rejection of Motion 2, these motions looked to be dealing with one of the issues that delegates spoke about while debating Motion 2, regarding the U17 minor and putting too much pressure on players at too young an age.

By returning the inter-county minor grade to U18, the gap between minor and U20 would be reduced from three years to two. In turn this allows more young players to remain on the development pathway for longer but U18 inter-county players would still be eligible for club adult competition further increasing their load.

We now have to wait and see what alternative the GAA comes up with to appease all sides.


Motion 2 at GAA Congress

Earlier in the day, Motion , which aimed to introduce trial U19 minor inter-county competitions to replace the U17 and U20 All-Ireland championship for 2023, 2024 and 2025 was rejected, though it did have a majority.


With a 60% majority needed to get over the line the motion brought forward by the Ard Chomhairle only received 55.6%.

Motion 2 stated:


That Rule 6.28 (E) (F) (H) – Governing the All-Ireland Minor and Under 20 Football and Hurling Championships – Official Guide (Part 1) – be temporarily set aside in 2023, 2024 and 2025 to allow for the introduction of an Under 19 Minor All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championship with the format and age span to be determined by Central Council. (Rule 6.17 affected or possibly affected)

In a very lengthy debate, player welfare and development was at the center of the points presented by those in favor of the motion. Donegal chairperson Mick McGrath who supported the motion did question the next step after U19 for players on the development process.

Paul Bellew, chairperson of Galway GAA, spoke about the lack of time given to counties to debate the motion at GAA Congressand the detail which it offered about when the competition would be run. He also expressed his concern that there was no details of the competition structure in the motion.


CEO of the GPA Tom Parsons asked for the motion to be deferred as he felt it would place a very big work load on U19 players. GAA Congress delegates were told that in the 2023 season there would be both an U19 and U20 competition run to insure no player missed out on an underage grade as a result of the introduction of the under 19 minor grade.

With the majority of speakers expressing concerns over the current U17 minor grade delegates will get their chance later this afternoon to return inter-county minor to under 18. Motions 41 (Carraig Eamonn, Longford) and 42 (Killyarry, Cavan) at 2022 GAA Congress will both see this happen with the difference being the age at which players are eligible being either under 16 or under 17.

Motion 1 at GAA Congress - passed

GAA Congress passed a new structure for the inter-county senior football championship.


GAA  Congress passed Motion 1 on the structure of the inter-county football championship with 94.7% of delegates voting in favor. With no delegate speaking against the motion it was clear a positive result was on the cards. Tom Parsons, the CEO of the GPA, spoke in favour of motion 1 and spoke that the “players are asking for unity”.

Former president of the GAA Sean Kelly while supporting the motion had a concern “that with three of the four teams qualifying from each group that it may lead to dead rubber games”. He asked that the GAA “make sure the Tailteann Cup is a real boom”.

The effect of this motion being passed will insure each county now guaranteed at least four championship games with one of those in the form of a provincial championship. The other three games will be in either the Sam Maguire or the Tailteann Cup which will be graded on a combination of league status and progression in the provincial championship.

SEE ALSO: Marc Ó Sé: Kildare Will Inflict More Pain On Dublin



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