BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Underage structures need to be looked at again

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN:  Underage structures need to be looked at again

To begin with this week I want to reflect on what is happening our underage structures and the changing of the age groups. I would not be enamoured with the changes which have been imposed by Croke Park for U-17 and U-20. I would much rather if we had the old age groups, especially U-18 and U-21.
I don't know if it is set in stone, but I think we have time at the moment to have a proper look at it. We should have it reviewed and a committee set up to look at it.
I know of many coaches putting in a huge effort at underage level. We have the likes of Eamon Barrett and boys working here in Bundoran and there would be a feeling that they will find it hard to keep boys interested if there is no football at U-18 level.
Also we need a meaningful programme of games for all underage groups, and those games have to be played when the weather is good and pitches are dry - from May to September.
The other issue that is a bugbear of mine is the need to regionalise the leagues at adult level. This countywide situation just doesn't work with Donegal. It is not fair for Bundoran to be travelling to Malin or vice versa.
The All County League came in because the south and south west were so strong at one stage, but the other teams are strong enough now to divide the county in a meaningful way.
And we should also be considering midweek games in that scenario. Let's say Ballyshannon and Bundoran were in the one league, there is no reason why the two games could not be played midweek, and they would attract plenty of attention
This year, it is unlikely that we will have any club football until April at the earliest, so we have time to plan for it. And if we divide the county, we can still have a competitive and enjoyable competition.
But now is the time to talk about it.

COUNTY TEAM
I see that the county team will not now be allowed to train until the end of January and I wouldn't be surprised if that is pushed out again, which makes it difficult for Declan Bonner.
Also I was disappointed to hear that Karl Lacey had left the backroom team. Karl has been involved a long time and has a good bit of experience. I remember bringing him into the panel.
I also heard that the strength and conditioning coach Paul Fisher had stepped away while I'm led to believe that there will be a new goalkeeping coach also.
I would congratulate all of them for their work and hopefully all will be replaced. New blood is always welcome and sometimes it is good to freshen things up.
The news that Odhrán Mac Niallais is to return to the playing panel is very good news. I would have been pleading his case for some time and I'm delighted to see him back, definitely an addition to the squad.
Then if we can get the two other Gaoth Dobhair man Odhrán McFadden Ferry and Kieran Gillespie back in defence along with Neil McGee and Stephen McMenamin, things would be very positive.
And talking of people walking away I see that Mayo have had three retirements in David Clarke, Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons. Parsons has a big Bundoran connection, being a nephew of Peter Barry, who was a very good player. After his injury, I didn't think Parsons would return, but he did and I thought it was a mistake that he was not thrown in against Dublin in the second half in the All-Ireland final. It is a big commitment at county level and there aren't many like Neil McGee who are prepared to put their life on hold for so long.
I hear also that Tyrone are building already for the new season under new management; young McQuillan, son of Martin, is back from Australia to help Armagh, and they have Kieran Donaghy of Kerry involved, while Monaghan have landed Donie Buckley as coach for this season.
They are the three teams we will meet in the league and, most likely, in the Ulster championship. I'm looking forward to that draw already.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Peter Campbell

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