THE LIMERICK Bord na nÓg AGM was held last week, and while there was plenty to celebrate in the county throughout 2011 – an u-21 All-Ireland, Effin, Na Piarsaigh – the Chairman became quite vocal about the lack of competitive games at u-12 level.
About three years ago, a directive from Croke Park decreed that championships should be abolished at the under-12 grade in favour of a Go Games format blitz. I thought it was a great idea at the time and still do.
The idea is that the sideline madness that masquerades as parental support comes to an end, the abuse, the pressure and the win at all costs attitude that is dumped by the skip-load onto 11-year-old children comes to and end, or at least is markedly reduced.
It stands to reason that this scenario – mentors and parents shouting abuse at kids during games – puts some of our youngest children off playing Gaelic games.
And although the haemorrhaging of youngsters from hurling is a good enough reason in itself to adopt the Go Games format for championship, it has even greater long term benefits for players and clubs.
Another scenario we’re all familiar with is the match that is dominated by three or four players on either side, when 20 percent of the hurlers account for 90 percent of the play. The four strongest lads on each team make up the centre half back, midfield, centre half forward diamond and dominate possession, and the rest of the players scrap for what’s left.
The stronger players take every free, every sideline cut, and virtually every score but at the same time develop poor decision-making, and generally pick up bad habits due to having too much time and space on the ball on a pitch that is designed for 30 adults.
It is not uncommon for players to come off the field having touched the ball twice during a whole game. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t want to come back next week?
The Go Games format aimed to remedy that. The rules force players to think, to tighten up on their control, to bring other players into the game, to make the right decisions in a game situation instead of soloing for 50 yards every time they get the ball and trying to score from a ridiculous angle.
Frees are taken by the player fouled, sideline cuts are taken by the player nearest the line. Teams can field with less than a full team or can field a player from another club.
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