Tyrone under-age revamp worries Cathal McShane
Tyrone Under-21 and senior player Cathal McShane has voiced his concerns over the re-grading of the under-age competition, warning that it has the potential to 'stunt progress' of players coming through the ranks.
The Red Hands continue their defence of the Ulster and All-Ireland titles at that level under manager Feargal Logan, reaching the Ulster decider on April 6 against Monaghan with victory over Donegal on Wednesday.
However, this is the final year of the successful and popular competition. The GAA voted at February's Congress to switch to an Under-20 competition, to be played without any county senior panellists. Already, McShane can see potential pitfalls.
"With the Under-20 grade, for example, if a boy is good enough at that age he might be in the seniors and then the (Under-20) squad won't have him. That means he is not getting football with the Under-20s and when he goes onto the seniors, he might not be getting much game time with them either because he is young," the St Mary's University student teacher explained.
"It stunts progress. It will fault the player who will not get as much game time as he would have liked and if you are on the senior squad and not playing…"
One of the chief reasons for the change was an effort to tackle player burnout. McShane would be a prime example of that cross-section of player that the GAA want to protect with this measure.
He plays for his club Owen Roes Leckpatrick, the Tyrone senior and Under-21 sides and Freshers football with St Mary's, which will be Sigerson next year.
On his own personal workload, he added: "It's very tough, very time consuming. No doubt I love it because that's what I want to do, I want to play at the top level. When you are training on a Monday with St Mary's and then down the road for training on a Tuesday night, you have to fit in a gym session on Wednesday and then training Thursday. You could have something on a Friday and then a game at the weekend.
"You realise that you don't have much time to do anything but your football. Maybe it does help in terms of freeing up players during the week.
"If it makes it easier for a players' life, for their social life, their family and friends. I have found it tough a few times in terms of a lot of commitment to different teams."