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Joe Kernan: Tweak U21 championship to make a good thing even better

Disappointment may have been Cavan’s lot in last Sunday’s All Ireland Under 21 football final when they were beaten by an exceptionally good Galway side.

But the Ulster champions can take considerable comfort from the fact that they claimed the scalps of Fermanagh, Donegal, Tyrone and Wexford en route to the national final.

And manager Terry Hyland now knows that quite a number of his players will step up to senior inter-county level.

While Cavan can reflect on a competition that provided many highlights, Tyrone showed in reaching the Ulster final that they are a team of rare quality.

The three games they played against Down before booking their passage into the semi-final perhaps made inroads into their stamina but manager Raymond Munroe knows that a lot more will be heard from many of his players.

It is a great pity that the Under 21 competition is shoe-horned into the month of March, a month that is already groaning under the weight of a miscellany of competitions.

I believe it would be preferable to start the competition earlier and even play matches on Friday rather than Wednesday nights. The current eight o’clock starting time, too, means that visiting teams in particular are arriving home quite late and third-level students who have to make their way to perhaps Dublin or Belfast are also put under pressure.

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The Under 21 Championship bridges the gap very well between Minor and Senior levels — it is a great competition which deserves a higher profile. Indeed, the attendances at some of the games this year were on a par with gates at National League games.

With a little tweaking, the Under 21 series could be transformed into an even more glamorous competition.

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