DONEGAL boss Gary McDaid rues the rule which prevents players from lining out with both the county u-20 and senior teams.
The ruling has hit the Donegal u-20s particularly hard as teenage sensation Oisin Gallen made the decision in the wake of a fantastic Division Two campaign to stay put with Declan Bonner’s senior team during the championship.
Gallen isn’t the most physically imposing youngster but that didn’t limit his impact in the Division Two final against Meath in particular, scoring four eye-catching points from play, and he’s recovered from a pre-championship injury to pick up game time in their semi-final win over Tyrone and Ulster final victory over Cavan.
McDaid is none-too-pleased by the state of affairs, and says that past history shows that it’s better for players to stick with their own age groups for the time being.
“It’s a bad rule, and it’s a rule that’s really hurting us because Oisin would be worth six or seven points a game at this level.
“He’s only 18 still, he’s just a kid. It’s an opportunity for other players to step up but it’s definitely a rule that the GAA need to look at next year.
“I don’t think it’s ideal, I think they should let the lads play in the McKenna Cup and then go to play with their own age group at u20s then, I think that’s the way forward.
“The experience they get at senior level don’t get me wrong is brilliant, but I think they need to play at their u20 age group as well.”
“Take Paddy McBrearty and Michael Murphy, they were huge leaders in their own age groups coming through and that helped them to develop leadership skills. It’s much more difficult for an 18-year-old coming into an adult team to develop those skills, it’s obviously harder to raise your head above the parapet.”
McDaid led Glenswilly team to Donegal Senior Football Championships in 2011 and 2013 and was part of the backroom team when they won a third in 2016.
The 2011 success was the first time they ever won the senior championship and he sees certain parallels with the Donegal u-20 team he’s currently in charge of.
“My club Glenswilly weren’t known for doing much prior to 2011. We got a good back-room together and managed to win a few champions.
“The Donegal team is a bit similar. We’re not blessed with finance and resources but we’ve a capable and innovative backroom team with the likes of Francie Friel, Eamon McGee, Brian Roper, Michael Boyle. Then you’ve a great medical team and people like Ed Byrne overseeing the logistics.”
Neither Donegal or Fermanagh have fared well at minor in recent years, but McDaid insists that this is an unusually talented Fermanagh team they are facing this weekend.
McDaid said: “Fermanagh and Donegal’s minor records in the last few years are very similar. This year’s minor team is the first in four years which actually won a game in the Ulster Championship.
“The Fermanagh have about five seniors back like Ultan Kelm and Johnny Cassidy – Ultan was probably their best player against Donegal in the first round of the Ulster Championship. They’re achieved more than our lads, Enniskillen Gaels won the Ulster title and St Michael’s won the Hogan Cup.”
McDaid was in charge of the team last year as well. They lost by a point to eventual champions Derry in the Ulster Championship semi-final, and he’s more than happy that this weekend’s match against Fermanagh will be played in the evening.
“Last year we’d a few early throw ins, we had to travel to Omagh against Derry for a 11:45am throw-in and that wasn’t ideal. I’d players travelling from Carndonagh and Naomh Columba, which is an hour and 15 minutes to get to Letterkenny, they had to stay overnight.”