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Mayo Youths League chiefs in firing line

Sport

DECISION Mayo Schoolboys/girls Youth League secretary Dave Breen.

Clubs criticise decision to scrap ‘even age’ competitions

Oisín McGovern

THE decision of Mayo Schoolboys/girls Youths League chiefs not to run competitive leagues for ‘even age’ groups this year has been slammed by a number of local clubs and parents.
The decision to cancel competitive action for Under-12, Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 teams has sparked criticism among the Mayo soccer community, especially on social media.
The Mayo News has learned that a number of clubs have also written letters of complaint about the decision to scrap the ‘even age’ competitions to Mayo Youths League officials.
Under the proposed plans which were circulated to clubs last week, only Under-13, Under-15, and Under-17 leagues will run for boys and girls when action returns on July 20.
Underage cup competitions have also been shelved for this season.
The decision means that players born in 2003, who are old enough to play Under-18 but too old for Under-17, will have no competitive action at all this year.
A number of people have used social media to call on officials to allow ‘even age’ grades to run instead in order to avoid this situation.
At least one Mayo club have submitted a letter to league chiefs stating they ‘will not be in a position to return to underage football at underage level this year with the new rules in place’.
However, Mayo Football Youth League Secretary David Breen said the decision was made to accommodate as many children as possible.
Speaking to The Mayo News last night (Monday), he said: “What we factored in was how to get the most teams out. You have four different age groups in ‘even’, U-12s, U-14s, U-16s, and U-18s.
“We have five nights of the week to work with. We try and work in Thursday night but it’s mostly a Junior night. To run ‘even’ age groups takes up the four nights, and you [would have to] forget about girls football.”
Breen said that accommodating girls’ football, which runs with U-13, U-15 and U-17 age groups, was a key factor in deciding to run with odd age groups.
“It’s a huge part of any league and deserves the same respect as boys football,” he said.
“We’re trying our best to get as many kids out as possible, boys and girls. Some people see girls football as being lesser, but that’s not the way I see it.”
Regarding the prospect of players born in 2003 not having any competitive action for the next 12 months, Breen said: “There’s nowhere to put in U-18 football. There’s nowhere to fit them in. You can’t magic up days of the week. It’s an impossible situation.
He continued: “This is an interim position that we have. There’s some leagues that aren’t going back. We’re trying our best to get as many kids out as possible, boys and girls. There’s leagues in the country that are considering waiting until next year and starting afresh.”
In a letter sent to the Mayo League and seen by The Mayo News, one club said the decision “means a whole swathe of players don't get to play competitive football this year. U-18 boys are missing out on their final year of underage football. At the other end of the scale, 10- and 11-year-olds are missing out on the nine-a-side game at U-12 level”.
They also suggested that the even age groups be run instead of the odd age groups (U-11 to U-17) as they would be “switching over to even age football anyway, and would segue nicely into the 2020/21 Connacht Cup competitions”.
The club in question said, “while understanding the difficult position you are in as an organisation, the structures you are implementing make it very difficult for us as a club and, I would imagine, many other clubs too.
“We feel that all players who register should be given the opportunity to play. That means we and similar clubs with big numbers playing may have to enter three, four or even five teams in certain age groups. “It is surely incumbent on all of us who work in the area of providing sport for children to give all children the same opportunity to play.”

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