Rory Gallagher hits out at ruling that leaves five u-20 players in limbo

By Michael McMullan

DERRY manager Rory Gallagher has called on the GAA to “put back” or “find a solution to” a change of ruling that will prevent five of his squad from taking part in u-20 and senior championship games within three days later this month.

The Oakleafers’ boss hit out the GAA ruling being changed Saturday week ago, after the commencement of the playing season, and Ulster GAA decision not to grant an u-20 fixture change.

Derry u-20s are due to face Donegal in the Ulster semi-final on Wednesday, April 12, three days before the seniors open the defence of their Ulster senior title against Fermanagh in Brewster Park on Saturday, April 15.

Eoin McEvoy, Lachlan Murray, Matthew Downey, Niall O’Donnell and Mark Doherty were on named on the Oakleafers’ matchday 26 for Sunday’s defeat to Dublin, with all but the latter seeing action.

McEvoy – who started 10 of the 11 senior games before Sunday – came on as a late sub after not being listed for the u-20s victory over Fermanagh in midweek.

“We have five players ineligible to play two championship games in seven days,” an strongly speaking Gallagher told to the assembled press following Derry’s defeat on Sunday in Croke Park.

The change of ruling will make any player who starts or comes on in the Oakleafers’ u-20 semi-final against Donegal illegible for the senior game against Fermanagh three days later.

Gallagher pointed to Donegal not being out in the senior championship during the same seven-day window, playing Down on April 23. The Mourne men are also playing on Wednesday week in the u-20 championship with Conor Laverty as manager of senior and u-20 teams.

None of the Donegal u-20 players who featured in their win over Antrim have played for the seniors this season, similar to Monaghan who have their u-20 game within the seven-day window of their senior clash with Tyrone

The Ulster and Connacht u-20 football championships are straight knock-out while Leinster and Munster are played on a round robin basis.

The situation comes after a change of wording to Rule 6.17 since the passing of Wexford’s motion 10 at February’s GAA Congress which relaxed restrictions on u-20 players.

“Such a player may only play in either the Inter-County Senior Football Championship (Tier 1 or Tier 2) or the Inter-County U20 Hurling Championship in each seven-day period (Friday morning to the following Thursday night). Coming on as a substitute constitutes playing a game,” read the motion that was passed and voted for by Derry.

At a meeting the GAA’s Central Council, on Saturday March 25, the wording of the rule was amended to make the seven-day window a rolling one, beginning with the first game, in this case, Derry’s u-20 clash with Donegal.

Derry approached Ulster GAA, offering what Gallagher said was the “easy solution” to bring their u-20 game forward to Wednesday, Thursday or Friday – outside the seven-day window – but no change was granted.

“The Ulster Council then voted on it yesterday. It is like usual, lip service from them,” Gallagher said.”

“There is big talk in the world about equality and diversification,” Gallagher said, “very disappointed” by the decision.

“Yet Derry players are not equal to Donegal players because they do not get the opportunity to play in both championships within the timeframe.”

Gallagher was asked what he’d like done to alleviate the situation, he said:

“Find a solution or the ruling is put back until next year. It is absolutely ridiculous it was brought in.

“It’s supposed to be about having your best players playing in the competitions but how can the best players play in two competitions?”

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