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Thursday 18 December 2014

O'Curry calm over U21 clashes at exam time

THE inaugural All-Ireland U21 Championship will begin on May 19. It will run for six successive weeks. "Yes, it will be short and sweet," remarks Dublin Under-21 manager Fintan O'Curry (below).

It replaces the old All-Ireland Senior B grade. The U21 competition will carry on the name of that tournament, which honours the memory of the young and talented Mayo footballer Aisling McGing.

It will be regionalised. Dublin's group includes Wicklow, Laois and Meath. The team that tops the group goes into the All-Ireland semi-final.

Players over 18 and under 21 are eligible. Dublin are holding trials. But the previous management unit know a lot of the girls already.

"We are certainly aware of the minor groups from last season and 2011. We are not sure about those that were there in 2010, so we'll be anxious to find out more there," explains Fintan.

The timing of the competition might cause problems as it falls bang into the middle of the Leaving Cert schedule.

But the Dubs can't do anything about that. "Okay, it does clash with the exam time, Leaving Cert and university. There's a few of the minors from last season sitting their Leaving Cert in June.

"Logistically, things might be a bit awkward, but that's the way it is. It's up to us to get down and get a team together and just go for it.

"The important thing is that the girls now know there is a competition there for them. It will keep them involved in inter-county football and that has to be a bonus for the sport, and indeed Dublin."

Yet, no matter what the new pages may bring, Fintan and his colleagues will have those minor memories framed forever.

"It wasn't just about the football. It was the bond that developed in the group. Everybody treated each other with respect. That's a lesson for life.

"And then to top it all off with an All-Ireland victory into the bargain, well, that was the business."

Dubs to capitalise on chance to curb drop-off

FINTAN O'CURRY has given his blessing to the '21-Gun Salute'. Fintan is the manager of the Dublin U21 side that will take part in the new tournament.

"There is too much of a drop-off between minor inter-county and senior inter-county. This is now an opportunity for Dublin to hold onto their players and give them another couple of years to develop and, hopefully, progress onto the senior set-up," states Fintan.

"Before this initiative, there was nothing to catch them. Senior inter-county football is a big step. Girls just out of minor mightn't feel ready for the demands of senior.

"I didn't know how many times I was asked by the minor girls: 'Is there anything there for us?' Now, thankfully, there is."

For the last couple of years, Fintan managed the minors with John Caffrey, Gerry Barrett, Ken Murphy, Judy Murphy and Shirley McDonagh.

"It's wonderful to have that kind of experience now again. It all gelled very well in the last couple of seasons."

The mentors and panel enjoyed golden days. The memories still burn of the day they went pier jumping in Wexford, followed by a tasty barbecue.

And then there was the awards night. "As a management, we were always saying to the girls that it was they who were going to win the medals and not us," recalls Fintan.

"But what did they do for the awards night? They went out and bought each of the management group an All-Ireland medal. It's things like that which made the experience so special.

"I couldn't speak highly enough of them. They were just a class group of kids. Most of them hadn't met since the All-Ireland final, but on the awards night they just took off as if they had never been away. And I feel they'll be having reunions for the years to come.

"It was all so enjoyable. There was never a day that we, as a management group, didn't look forward to going training.

"It was never a chore. The squad were just great to be around.

"Hopefully, now, we'll get the same spirit and enthusiasm going for the Under-21 campaign and take it as far as we can go."

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