GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Tipperary manager Liam Cahill unhappy with U20 grade switch
Last Updated: 07/08/19 11:06am
Twelve months ago, Liam Cahill led Tipperary to the last ever U21 All-Ireland title. This summer, he's gunning to lead the Premier to the inaugural U20 crown.
The switch in the grade has been subject of much debate, but the 2016 All-Ireland minor winning boss is fully against the move.
"I think the GAA have got it wrong," he began.
"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 [U20] 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."
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There are further changes being mooted, with some suggesting scrapping minor and U20, and creating just one underage grade at U19.
However, Cahill fears that some top players would walk away from the sport before they're ready for senior intercounty.
"It's about consistency and developing players gradually. Bringing a 19-year-old, the way it's structured now and the way intercounty 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 intercounty players lost as a result of the gap, the step up from U19 to senior. That's my opinion.
"You're going to lose fellas between 19 and 22 before they actually grasp it to come onto [senior]. 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.
"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."
As for the solution? Cahill feels that it was staring us in the face the whole time.
"I'd revert it back the way it was preferably," he said. "Obviously, it's going to have an issue with Leaving Cert.
"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."
However, he noted the one added bonus of U20 is that there are less players in the senior set-up, and therefore he has more control of his own panel.
"That's the one plus," he conceded. "Had the competition remained at U21, we would have 11 to 12 players on Liam Sheedy's panel at the moment, and I probably wouldn't be here in front of you today (preparing for the U20 final) 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 per cent or more of our panel throughout the campaign."
Sky Sports' GAA coverage continues this weekend with live coverage of both All-Ireland SFC semi-finals.