"Long term, I can't see that under-20 competition surviving, if it was up to me, I'd just have an under-19 one" 1 year ago

"Long term, I can't see that under-20 competition surviving, if it was up to me, I'd just have an under-19 one"

Nobody has been stung as much as Jack O'Connor.


The Kerry under-20 manager for the last two years, both of those years have been overshadowed by two monumental losses.

First, it was Sean O'Shea. 2017 was the year of change. It was then when the under-20 competition replaced the under-21 grade and with the drop-down came a couple of new rules.

One of them has created more of a stir than most. Play with your county senior team or play with the under-20s. You must choose one panel for the year and you can't be a part of both.

Cue tough decisions and difficult chats between senior and under-20 managers. Cue gifted young talents leaving the players they grew up playing alongside, behind.

Sean O'Shea left in 2017. He was good enough for the Kerry seniors but the under-20s missed his presence in a one point semi-final loss to eventual winners Kildar. Jack O'Connor couldn't have been happy.

But 2018 was to deal an even harsher blow to the Kerryman. Young Footballer of the Year David Clifford was out this time. Imagine the difference he'd have made.


O'Connor wasn't the only manager stung. The same happened with counties all over while others, such as 2018 champions Cork used the rule to their advantage. Some of the Rebels' best players would have been Cork seniors only for an agreement for a serious tilt to be made at the under-20 competition.

Keith Ricken and his squad reaped the rewards. But the inconsistency of the whole thing doesn't feel right.

That man Jack O'Connor was on The GAA Hour on Thursday and he feels that the under-20 is a farce of a competition and that it should be merged with minor to make an under-19 grade.

"We were beaten in the semi-final by a point so you can imagine how frustrated I was after that game...

"I'll sum it up like this. How can you take a competition seriously when the best players aren't allowed to play in it? That's the way I'd look at it. It really takes from the competition that someone like David Clifford couldn't play in it..."


"If you leave something to the good-will of the people involved in the senior team, that's not really a good way to run it. An example this year - we lost another good player Diarmuid O'Connor in the league who featured in the League but didn't feature too much in the championship...Fair play to Cork, it came right for them.

"It's just a farce of a set up where some counties can have their players and other counties don't have them. It's an uneven playing field..."

"Long term, I can't see that under-20 competition surviving, if it was up to me, I'd just have the one competition, an under-19 competition because I think the minors are too young to be playing in front of the crowds they're playing in front of...

You can watch the latest episode of The GAA Hour here.