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'I think the GAA have got it wrong' - Tipp boss questions underage changes

Liam Cahill feels the move at U20 and minor levels has not worked out.

Tipperary's Munster U20 hurling winning manager Liam Cahill.
Tipperary's Munster U20 hurling winning manager Liam Cahill.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

TIPPERARY’S U20 HURLING manager Liam Cahill has questioned the changes made by the GAA to the grading system for underage competitions and does not feel they have worked out positively.

Cahill recently guided Tipperary to Munster honours and they will contest the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland decider against Cork later this month.

He steered Tipperary to the All-Ireland U21 title last year and had extensive experience taking charge of Premier outfits.

With suggestions that another revamp could be considered with U19 introduced as the only underage grade, Cahill believes ‘the GAA have got it wrong’ with the changes introduced and points out the Leaving Cert is now an issue for U20 players instead of those at minor level.

“I think the GAA have got it wrong. They have moved back the U17 to facilitate the Leaving Cert and they’ve just kicked the can further down the road because now we have fellas doing the Leaving at 18 and a half, 19.

“The first round of the championship in early May, we had eight or ten lads doing Leaving Cert, so it was the same scenario (as minor). If that was the reason for moving it back, it definitely isn’t working anyway.

“I had my reservations on day one. I was prepared to give it a go and see. I think it really has to come under scrutiny again and be looked at across the board.

“I’d revert it back the way it was preferably. Obviously, it’s going to have an issue with leaving cert. Maybe the U19 and U21 could be an alternative.”

Tipperary players celebrate with the trophy Tipperary players celebrate their recent Munster U20 triumph. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Cahill believes bringing in an U19 grade would cause a drop off in the volume of players progressing to senior level.

“I don’t know where this is going to stop. To me from a pure coaching and development perspective, when you’re in a role like myself and Denis Ring and other managers that are there at the underage structure for a long time, it’s about consistency and developing players gradually.

“Bringing a 19 year old, the way it’s structured now and the way inter-county senior hurling is gone, fellas are nearly 23, 24 before they really establish themselves. So it’s a big gap from U19 up to 23.

“We’d lose a lot of fellas along the way, you can be sure of that. There’d be a lot of potential inter-county players lost as a result of the gap, the step up from U19 to senior. That’s my opinion.

“Unless you’re an exceptional player, the likes of a Kyle Hayes or a Peter Casey or a Jake Morris. They’re very few now. Limerick were very fortunate last year to push through a couple early. But most counties won’t get that.”

They’re massive units now playing intercounty hurling. When you’re meeting a fully conditioned Padraic Maher, albeit in his twilight years, when you put in a 19-year-old against him, he has to be an exceptional player to compete against him.

Sheedy does feel it is a positive that he has had less players juggling underage and senior commitments with Tipperary this year. Jake Morris, Jerome Cahill and Paddy Cadell are the U20 hurlers who are also involved with Liam Sheedy’s squad preparing for the upcoming All-Ireland decider against Kilkenny.

“That’s a brilliant point. That’s the one plus. Had the competition remained at U21, we would have 11 to 12 players on Liam Sheedy’s panel at the moment. I probably wouldn’t be here in front of you today because, as good as we might look on paper, we wouldn’t have been able to come together collectively to get a competitive environment and a proper team structure in place.

“So that is a plus I suppose of the structure that we only have the three guys involved and we have access to 90% or more of our panel throughout the campaign. That is the one plus I would say that the U20 grade has contributed.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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