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27th Apr 2023

“I think it’s a disgrace that the young fellas aren’t able to play” – Laverty hits out at U20 ruling

Niall McIntyre

Down won their second Ulster U20 Championship in three years when they beat Derry by 2-11 to 0-9 in Armagh’s Athletic Grounds.

Conor Laverty’s side had been trailing their opponents by three points with 20 minutes to play but in a stunning final surge, they hit 2-5 without reply to leave Derry reeling.

It keeps the momentum going for the Mourne county in what is the real business time of the year for their flagship teams. Conor Laverty is the manager of both – their U20s and seniors – and it’s perhaps a good job that he is.

That’s because of the GAA rule where U20 players are prohibited from playing for both their U20 and senior teams within a seven day period.

Between Laverty and the four players this rule concerned – Odhran Murdock, Ryan Magill, Paddy McCarthy and man-of-the-match Oisin Savage – they decided to play for the U20s but speaking to TG4 after the match, the Kilcoo manager made his thoughts clear on the rule.

They won’t be allowed to play for Down against Armagh this weekend in the Ulster semi-final, and Laverty feels that the rule is a disgrace.

“Listen, I think it’s a disgrace that the young fellas aren’t able to play,” said Laverty in an interview with Micheál Ó Domhnaill.

“Earlier in the year, they can play different competitions night after night and come to training and then whenever it comes to the biggest day of the year, that they’ve worked hard for all their lives, that young fellas are deprived.

“I feel we’re depriving our most talented players of that chance, that we should have some lads playing last weekend, tonight and at the weekend now.”

Odhran Murdock is one of the most talented players in Down – the Burren sensation hit 1-1 in Wednesday night’s final – but despite playing a key role for their seniors through the National League, he won’t be able to play a part for them in the senior semi-final on Sunday.

“It’s very unfortunate for them I feel that the GAA have put in a rule that they haven’t much thought into,” said Laverty.

“It’s really disappointing and a very hard decision. We asked the players themselves and took their thoughts into consideration.

“And really, only one of the lads would have been in the mix to start but, we asked their opinions and we felt that when they came back with that answer, that we had to be true to them and let them play out maybe their last time at underage.

“I just feel that any young lad 19/20, will be able to play two games in one week. It happens through universities and the early stages of different competitions so why when it comes to the dry sod and the sunny evenings, that they can’t go out and play two matches? Even though they’re training a few times a week.

“The boys will be back in the gym in a couple of days time, they’ll be back on the field on the weekend. Yet they can’t play a game.”

“There is a window when we can go with an u20 championship a bit earlier, and take the sting out when the main championships are on. Or else just have common sense. Managers have a lot of sport science behind them.

“A manager’s job is to put his player’s best interests at heart, and I totally expect that them lads on my panel could play two games, in seven days.”

Meanwhile, Derry manager Martin Boyle was also critical of the ruling.

“It puts players in an impossible position,” he said.

“A lot of counties have suffered by this silly rule, and we’ve suffered tonight definitely.”

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