Schoolboy soccer leagues may revert back to a winter season

Major changes on the cards at underage

Diarmaid Doherty


Diarmaid Doherty


Schoolboy soccer leagues may revert back to a winter season

The Eany Celtic U-16 team, winners of the South Donegal Schoolboys U-16 league title.

Major changes to schoolboys soccer across Donegal are on the cards yet again with news that the Donegal Schoolboys League is set to revert back to winter football.

The proposed change comes just over a year after the league moved to play fixtures during the summer months.

That change caused widespread debate among clubs, coaches and parents at the time with many pointing to the direct clash with the GAA in Donegal which also runs its underage fixtures during the summer.

The PRO of the Donegal Schoolboys League said that while clashes with GAA games have been an issue this year, there have been many other problems too.

Tony McNamee, who is also the Fixtures Secretary for the Letterkenny North West Area, said he has encountered no end of issues which caused fixture problems throughout the season.

In one case, he said a Letterkenny club was unable to play matches at U-16 level for five weeks because players were away to Irish college.

“We’ve tried out summer soccer, but it hasn’t been easy,” Mr. McNamee said.

In April of last year, the Donegal Schoolboys League revealed plans to change to summer soccer in 2017.

The new season kicked off in February and won’t conclude until well into October.

However, with two months still to go in the current campaign, it’s now very likely that the league will revert back to a winter season.

Delegates from the league’s 32 clubs attended a meeting in Stranorlar on Monday evening. Some of those present outlined some of the problems that the change to summer soccer has thrown up this year. At the end of a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that the clubs would be given two weeks to decide on what should happen.

Clubs have been asked to consider three different options:

A) that a new season starts in October 2017 and goes through to May 2018

B) that a short season begins in February 2018 to May 2018 and a new winter season then begins in September 2018 through to May 2019

C) that a summer season from February 2018 to October 2018 proceeds with a break for the months of July and August.

Tony McNamee said the change to summer football was part of a pilot scheme organised by the FAI this year. The governing body, under its Development Plan, asked the Donegal Schoolboys League, the Clare Schoolboys League and the Dublin and District Schoolboys League to switch to summer soccer to see how the change would work.

“As someone whose job it is to organise fixtures, I know as well as anyone the problems that winter football can throw up when it comes to pitches being unplayable and playing games in bad weather,” he said.

“But we’ve discovered too that changing to summer football creates problems as well.

“The better players have found that they could be out playing games, whether it’s football or gaelic, six days a week, and that’s not even counting school matches.

“Some families found that there’s so much going on that they couldn’t even go on a summer holiday.”

The Donegal Schoolboys League runs competitions for U-8s, U-10s, U-12s, U-14s and U-16s and this year there was a break in fixtures to accommodate teams attending different tournaments like the Foyle Cup, Kennedy Cup and Galway Cup. There was also a short break during exam time.