A growing number of Reserve players are again calling for a major re-think on the structures which are in place in the Armagh Leagues.
As with previous years some sections of the county’s B Leagues fell into chaos midway through the season with, in the Senior Reserve League, a number of clubs fulfilled only half of their fixtures.
Many different formats have been tried over the years but with senior sides continuing to dominate club thinking, reserve players who feel they are in a silent minority, believe that their plight is being continuously ignored.
Throughout the county more and more players are unable for various reasons to sustain the commitment and time required from senior team managers who at times implement almost county like training regimes.
So can reserve football accommodate players who are unable to commit to a tough senior schedule?#
And can a League structure be put in place to facilitate those who have played at youth level for their clubs but now feel they are being thrown on to the scrap heap?
Some members of reserve squads have to compete against what they could describe as ‘greedy’ players who are members in some cases of Minor, under 21, and Senior and possibly Higher Education teams, until recently under 16 players were also permitted to play B football, which essentially meant a player could play for up to five teams while another was ruled out of playing for one.
Due to the fractured nature of the Reserve Leagues in Armagh clubs like Pearse Óg joined the Junior League (Division 3) with a result that their players line out on a regular basis.
In the recent past the Ulster Council implemented a scheme called Recreational GAA which attempted to accommodate players who wanted to play for fun.
Although the idea was in the most part unsuccessful would a scenario which coupled both recreational and competitive reserve football work?
Here are some suggestions which Mail correspondent Eugene Creaney feels could be implemented to revamp reserve football.
Reinstate the North Armagh Leagues
Under the remit of the Competitions Control Committee the North Armagh Leagues could be re-instated with Clan na Gael, St. Peter’s, Clann Éireann, Sarsfields, Annaghmore, Clonmore, St. Paul’s, Éire Óg, Wolfe Tones, Maghery and Tír na nÓg all competing in a one way structure. With the winners moving forward to a three way all county play-off.
The Championships should remain in an All County basis, in two sections, Senior and Intermediate.
Start B Leagues early
B Leagues should be given an early slot (March) in the club calendar to avoid clashes with senior sides in the competitive part of the season, which was the case for some clubs this year (groupings to be based on Senior standings from previous year).
Recreation and Competition
These two scenarios would fit ideally into reserve leagues, the five substitutions rule should be scrapped and replaced with a player exchange system where players can be introduced from the half way line, similar to seven a side games. No player who has been brought through a clubs youth ranks and is unable to secure a place on a senior squad should be omitted from B games, due to an unfair rule.
With new guidelines competition coupled with recreation could work well together and accommodate all club players irrespective of their ability.
A workable outreach of this would increase squad numbers and give players a new sense of belonging.