Henry Shefflin has become the latest intercounty manager calling on the GAA to abolish the rule prohibiting eligible players from featuring in a senior and under-20 game within a seven-day period.
The regulation, which was a relaxation of the previous rule when an appearance with a senior team ruled players out completely from playing at the under-20 grade, was introduced at GAA Congress in February.
However, it has proven to be a particularly vexatious directive with intercounty managers – Rory Gallagher, Conor Laverty and Ben O’Connor have been among those venting their indignation in recent weeks.
And Shefflin has now joined the growing chorus of frustrated bosses. The Galway senior hurling manager has juggled the seven-day window predicament in recent weeks with under-20 player Liam Collins.
Collins was the top scorer for the Galway under-20s in their Leinster round-robin games against Dublin and Kilkenny. But he did not feature in their last group game against Wexford on April 21st and instead was part of the Galway senior panel for their Leinster SHC opener against Wexford the following day.
Collins did not play with Brian Hanley’s under-20s in their provincial quarter-final loss to Offaly last Saturday either, as he was again part of Shefflin’s senior panel the following day, this time for their trip to Nowlan Park to face Kilkenny. Collins was introduced late on in both of those senior games.
And Shefflin believes players should be afforded the opportunity to play at both grades, without stipulations.
“I think it just needs to go,” he said. “I don’t see the logic in it.
“It’s down to a bit of maturity on behalf of the management teams that they get on, the relationship between them, that we understand where it is. And if Liam Collins had woken up Sunday morning being very sore, stiff, and got a lot of belts, and he’s on our bench, so be it. He can stay on the bench and not come on in the game, we can call that.
“We named 26 players, we can only bring on five, so there’s always six subs who don’t get an opportunity to play.”
Shefflin feels it is possible, with good management and recognising the different loads placed on individuals, that players can line out on consecutive days.
“Would Liam Collins have been able to go to Tullamore on Saturday and play a match? Yes. Why not? He played six minutes with us, so the opportunity should’ve been there for him to have that,” added Shefflin.
“It was taken out of our hands and we obviously felt that we’d like Liam to be on our bench, that was the call we made. To be fair to Brian Hanley and his management team, they were totally understanding about that.
“Seán O’Hanlon and Gavin Lee are two other players and they travelled with the under-20s on Saturday, but I’m sure they were very disappointed knowing Liam Collins was sitting there watching the game when he could’ve had an impact on that Offaly game.
“He played six or seven minutes for us on the Sunday and what under-20-year-old after a disappointing loss to Offaly would have any problem getting up on a Sunday morning, travelling to Nowlan Park, going to a big game with a big crowd, and being a substitute and maybe coming on for 10 or 15 minutes?
“I can’t fathom how that would have an effect on a player. I think it would be beneficial to him if anything.”
Galway remain unbeaten in the Leinster senior hurling championship this year following an opening day win at home to Wexford and last week’s draw away to Kilkenny. The Tribesmen travel to Mullingar to face Westmeath this weekend and the group is already shaping up again as providing us with a Galway-Kilkenny provincial final.
This is Shefflin’s second season with Galway, and the Kilkenny native feels the panel is now more reflective of his influence.
“Last year you feel like you inherit a panel that’s there from the previous management team and you’re probably trying to understand it,” he explained. “I was later [getting appointed], I hadn’t seen any of the club championship, whereas this year you have a year of looking at those players and then you get the whole season to look at the club championship.
“So you probably feel that you have a better stamp on yourself and your own thing.”
Closer to home, Shefflin was supportive of the stance taken by match officials in Kilkenny last weekend on the back of an abusive letter sent to a referee. In an act of solidarity, all referees withdrew their services for club games in the county.
“It’s just absolutely disgraceful what happened there last week, so it’s great to see the Kilkenny referees supporting each other,” said Shefflin. “And I think we all have a part to play in the respect we show them.”