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Monday 18 December 2017

Time for Dubs to scrap dual minor policy - O'Grady

Cormac Costello. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cormac Costello. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

THE reality of Dublin GAA life is that there's no room for dual players at senior inter-county level.

Jim Gavin has made his position abundantly clear on the matter, writes Frank Roche.

Yet the dual crux remains a perennial issue through the underage ranks and, as he witnessed the Dublin minor and senior hurlers run out of road on the same day in Thurles, Michael O'Grady found himself reaching an inevitable conclusion.

Dublin, he feels, should abandon its dual policy at minor level. Waiting until players hit 19, and their heads are turned by the bright lights of senior football, is doing nothing for the long-term health of hurling in the capital.

Trying to play both codes simultaneously wasn't "physically possible" any more, according to the former Dublin hurling boss.

O'Gray expands: "Unfortunately we have lost the dual players because football is a stronger game and the football manager has said it this year - if you play hurling, you're not playing football, full stop. Now I think it's time for the hurling manager to say likewise - 'If you want to play football, off with you.'

PROACTIVE

"I believe we've got to be more proactive. In the famous Blue Wave document, it was said we'd phase out dual players after the age of 16 - and we're not doing that. And we're not even trying to do it."

The minor hurlers who lost Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final to Waterford included three starters - Rian McBride, Eoghan McHugh and Con O'Callaghan - who had won Leinster minor football medals a week earlier.

In previous years the number has been higher while this year's Dublin U16 panels include a whole swathe of talented teens with a dual mandate. What usually happens is that the best such players - the Ciarán Kilkennys and Cormac Costellos of this world - will ultimately opt for the footballers at senior level.

BEEF

O'Grady's beef is that dual underage players end up taking the places of others who are focussed solely on either hurling or football. "The money should be invested in them, not the dual player," he argues. "And with all the money that's being invested, AIG would get a better bang for their buck."

But what of the risk involved, the potential loss of the next Conal Keaney or Liam Rushe?

"There isn't long-term," O'Grady maintains. "You're losing them at 16 rather than 19. And if it's at 19 you lose them, the hype is created and it's demoralising for the hurling team to lose two or three of their stars ... so I'd say lose them before they become well known. There are plenty of hurlers in Dublin."

Stressing that he respects the decisions made by Costello and Kilkenny ("fabulous people, not only fabulous hurlers and footballers"), O'Grady then offers his own solution wherein the top dual players focus exclusively on hurling for one year and then, if they so choose, revert to football only the next year, or vice versa.

"Now, it's not a perfect solution to it - but it's a solution. And as an investment, as a product that Dublin GAA is producing, I think we'll get a better result in both codes," he concludes.

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