What will the 'Calendar Soccer Season' mean for the GAA
IN 12 months time, the sporting landscape will have changed utterly for budding young sporting all-rounders in Limerick.
How that change will impact on the sporting dreams of these schoolboys remains to be seen. Limerick takes pride in the fact that children have the opportunity to participate in a wide number of sports from a young age.
At a meeting of the FAI/SFAI steering committee and Limerick schoolboy/girl clubs in February, a decision to move all Schoolboy/girl soccer to a 'Calendar Season' was unanimously confirmed.
The meeting was seen as a pivotal night in the future of Irish soccer with the benefits of a February to November season deemed to far outweigh the current format with umpteen fixture postponements due to adverse weather.
From February of next year, all U-7 to U-16 sides will play across four match days, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays.
Provision will be made in the football calendar to allow for 3-4 weeks off for U-15s and U-16s in the run up to the Junior Certificate exams and also for a summer break of circa 6 weeks for summer holidays in July/ August.
In facilitating the transition to the new calendar season in February 2019, the FAI will have a short season from September to November this year.
Already 12 Leagues, including the Dublin District Schoolboy League, have moved to the calendar season, so a lot of the details have been worked out by others and all leagues are required to move by February 2020.
The decision to move to a calendar year is likely to benefit rugby clubs as for several months of their season – when the soccer and GAA seasons are closed down – rugby will have the ‘playing pitch’ to itself. That should benefit rugby clubs, players, coaches and parents.
The big issue with regard to moving schoolboy soccer to a calendar year is the impact it will have during the summer months on the staging of underage GAA fixtures on week-day nights.
Soccer fixtures will be staged on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays. Will conversations take place between the schoolboy leagues and the GAA’s Bord na nOg to ensure there are no regular fixture clashes between soccer and the GAA?
Hundreds and thousands of children love the fact that they can play both GAA sports and soccer. I’m speaking from experience here as a father of boys who enjoy playing these sports.
Of course it gets more difficult to combine the two sports at an elite level given the current overlap in the seasons.
Fixture clashes are difficult to avoid, but communication between the governing bodies of both schoolboy soccer and under-age GAA would lessen if not alleviate the number of clashes.
It also makes life easier for coaches who know exactly how many players they will have available to them for a specific fixture, be it competitive or a challenge game.
Parents too benefit from the avoidance of fixture clashes as they ferry boys and girls between trainings and match venues.
Fixture clashes also cause upset for children who wish to continue playing a number of sports at a young age. Hopefully a solution to the satisfaction of all sides can be reached.
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