BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GAA clubs that are struggling for numbers should do everything they can to give their players a chance to play, insists Eoin Burns, minor football manager of newly amalgamated club Muintir na nGael.
With Clann na nGael struggling for numbers underage, the Drimoleague/Drinagh club has linked up with Muintir Bhaire to field football teams at U16 and minor level.
‘I know every club wants to keep its own identity but, for me, the bottom line is that it’s important to keep young players playing and to give them that opportunity to play,’ Burns explained.
‘Clubs, especially rural clubs, can’t afford to lose underage players because that will filter through to the adult sides at some point.
‘If a club is in trouble with numbers I genuinely feel that an amalgamation is the way to go. At the very least it’s an option worth exploring.’
With Clann na nGael suffering from dwindling numbers at underage level, Burns explained just how bleak the situation had become.
‘The problem was that we just didn’t have the numbers in Clann na nGael at U16 or minor,’ he said.
‘All we had in the minor was two 18-year-olds, eight who are 16 going on 17, no 16-year-olds, so if we had to field at 12-a-side, we’d have to field 15-year-olds, and we have only two players of that age.
‘If we didn’t amalgamate with somebody then we would have no minor or U16 team, and all those lads would either give up football or transfer to other clubs. We couldn’t let that happen because we wouldn’t get those players back again.’
Clann na nGael approached Muintir Bhaire, who were receptive to the amalgamation, and after it was agreed that the clubs would combine at U16 and minor level, this new venture sprung into life and Muintir na nGael was born.
In many ways it’s an unusual amalgamation as the clubs aren’t neighbours, with Tadhg MacCárthaigh between the two – but needs must.
The Muintir na nGael minor team has already played its first league game – a 2-11 to 0-7 loss to St Colum’s in a Rebel Óg West league game – but since then they have recorded two wins in a row, including a 4-13 to 3-11 victory against Gabriel Óg last Thursday night.
With league and championship games on the horizon, it’s exciting times for the U16 and minor footballers of both Clann na nGael and Muintir Bhaire.
‘It’s great that these young fellas get the chance to play against bigger clubs in the championship, the likes of Dohenys, Newcestown and Bandon
‘I have never seen a crowd of young fellas blossom so much in a short space of time,’ he added. Muintir na nGael will alternate their U16 and minor games between Drimoleague and Durrus.
In the Rebel Óg West minor B football championship, Muintir na nGael received a bye to the quarter-final and they await the winner of the round one game between Bandon and Kilmeen.
The Muintir na nGael U16 team will campaign in the Rebel Óg West C football championship where they play Gabriel Óg in a quarter-final.