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Minor manager has some sympathy with the GAA's decision-makers

The GAA 'paused' the Minor and U20 championships last week after Republic of Ireland moved to Level 5 Covid restrictions.

Minor manager has some sympathy with the GAA's decision-makers

The Derry minor football manager has sympathised with GAA administrators who have been forced to suspend the association's underage championships until further notice.

Last week the GAA announced that both its minor and U20 series would be 'paused' until further notice due to the implementation of Level 5 restrictions in the Republic of Ireland.

Martin Boyle, whose side had been due to take on Armagh in the Ulster minor quarter final, said he was disappointed with the news, but sympathised with those making the call.

“I suppose it's not easy for people that are making decisions,” he told the Derry News.

“It's uncharted territory. Sometimes it looks as if people are disorganised, but it's hard to know what way this is going. We can't be too critical; they're hard decisions in my opinion.

“I remember reading the Level 5 restrictions a few weeks ago and it talked about only senior inter-county, so I was glad I didn't hear anything from them last Monday evening or Tuesday.

“After training on Tuesday, whispers started to come through and I got messages from people from other counties, but Stephen Barker [county chairman] clarified things with the Ulster Council.

“He said they were going ahead, and it was only on Wednesday morning when it really kicked off.”

The team had already faced difficulties in their preparation for the Ulster championship, with a number of players only returning to training last week after a period of Covid-related self-isolation.

With club and schools' football added to the mix, Boyle says the year has been 'stop-start'.

“I think I've had the full panel twice since we went into the job last October,” said the Ballinascreen man.

“It's an honour to be managing the county team and you think it'll be unbelievable to have access to the best players, but that's not how it's worked out.

“It's been far from ideal. All you want for lads is to be given the opportunity to show off their best. We'll just have to wait and see.”

The fact the GAA have used the word 'paused' means there is yet hope the competition could be completed.

“They haven't used the word 'cancelled' so we're clinging to that thread of hope. The Ulster minor championship has started, it commenced last Saturday,” he said.

“It might have been an easier decision to cancel it totally if it hadn't started, but we're hoping the fact it has started will make the difference.

“It's most disappointing for the players. It's been a really broken up year this year for the minors, really stop-start, between school, club and then Covid.

“It never really settled into a flow or rhythm. It's disappointing because the lads have worked hard. They really care about their football and have great pride to play for Derry.

“Whilst they weren't surprised, they're obviously disappointed, but their mindset is this is the pause button, and they'll go again.

“We said when Covid kicked in the main thing was that it wasn't cancelled. For these boys, they'd just love to get their opportunity to represent their county at minor level.

“They've worked hard and I can't sing their praises highly enough. 2021 is just around the corner, so the GAA is going to have to make a call,” he added.

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