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Mayo’s Under-14 soccer ‘mess’

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GAME OVER Mayo will not be entering a team in the National Under-14 League this year. Pic: Sportsfile

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Oisin McGovern

SOME parents say they and their children are ‘devastated’ and ‘up in arms’ after learning that Mayo will not field a team in this year’s Under-14 National League.
Despite having trained collectively for a number of months, players in the Mayo Under-14 squad have been ‘left in limbo’ after learning that they will not be entering the competition this year.
A number of parents spoken to by The Mayo News are demanding that the Mayo Schoolboys/Girls Youth League (MSGYL) hold an EGM to explain why Mayo will not be taking part in the competition.
The Mayo News has learned that three boys turned down offers to play for Sligo Rovers and Galway United in the belief that they would be competing for Mayo in the same competition. Two other players also refused trials with League of Ireland clubs on the same basis.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday afternoon (Monday), Mayo Schoolboys/Girls Youth League Secretary Dave Breen said that an application to enter the National League had been sent by the MSGYL last December, but that it did not meet the FAI’s new criteria.
“The main criteria is that they wanted us to form a company and form a club and we’re not in a position to do that. The costs shouldn’t be borne out by the league because we’d be a different company,” Breen explained.
“We’re a limited company as it is, and you can’t borrow money to start up another company, so that was the main thing.
“If you want the expense of that alone, what you have to put into it. . we’re in the business of giving football for 4,800 kids against 20,” he added.
“We spent an awful lot of time on… hundreds of teams, thousands of kids. If the FAI say we can’t come in, we can’t come in.”
Breen said that having Mayo teams competing in National League competitions from U-14 up to U-19 level was not sustainable.
“They weren’t prohibitive,” he said when asked about the costs of running the previous U-14 and U-15 teams.
“At the same time you’re looking at getting coaches and other things. It was easy enough to run one or two teams, but when you’ve more than that it become a different game.”
Mayo first began entering teams in the National League in 2016. The move was part of the Mayo FA’s strategic plan to enter a team in the First Division of the League Ireland by 2020.
The withdrawal of the Under-15 and Under-14 teams in the last two years leaves the county with no League of Ireland representation at any level.
One player who spoke The Mayo News described the revelation as ‘a disgrace’.
“It’s a disgrace how we’ve been pulled out just before the National League starts, also when we’ve been training and preparing from the upcoming season, just to be thrown out,” he said.
Another player’s mother, who did not wish to be named, said that her child became physically sick at school when he learned that training had been cancelled indefinitely.
“Kids are resilient, so if you’re going to take something from them at least have the balls to stand in front of them and say why you’re taking their dream away, what they were expecting six months of their year was going to revolve around.
“I just think it’s shocking to do that to young boys,” she said.
“I woke up Thursday morning and I had to read the message from the manager to see did I actually dream that mess?
“We’d that roster up on our fridge. The whole thing was laid out and to think this is where we are… this is just crazy stuff.
“Not only is the rug pulled from under you by someone, but it’s pulled from under you by your own county people, the Mayo committee. I just can’t get my head around that,” she added.
Another parent, speaking anonymously, described the situation as ‘heart-breaking’.
Leo Heaney, who coached Mayo’s first National League team, accused the Mayo Schoolboys/Girls Youth League of having no interest in elite football.
He said that the move had put Mayo soccer ‘into the dark ages’.
“They have no interest in national league football and haven’t developed it at all,” said Heaney, whose son was also involved with the Mayo Under-14 team.
The former Manulla chairman compared Mayo to the Kerry and Carlow football associations, who are both fielding underage teams at League of Ireland level.
“It’s a mess, elite football in Mayo. If you look at Kerry, that’s an example of how far we’ve fallen behind. Two counties, same size, same everything.
“[Mayo] gone from two teams, down to one team, down to no team, which is kind of unacceptable.”
Heaney said that the move would impede the development of players.
“The lads are devastated. Some had Ireland trials and they were up at that national development [level] and now they’ve nothing. You can’t afford to lose years at this level of football.”
The Mayo News was told that several unsuccessful attempts were made by parents and mentors to contact MSGYL officials to explain the situation.
A source close to the management said they received ‘no communication’ from officials regarding the situation after phone calls, emails and WhatsApp messages went unanswered.  
“There’s nothing more that we can do, to be honest,” Dave Breen told The Mayo News yesterday when asked to address the concerns expressed by parents over the handling of the situation.
Breen added that he had ‘no problem’ meeting with anyone who wished to express their concerns about the situation.
“We’re involved in over 100 competitions, we have probably 12 county teams apart from this one team. It’s as simple as that. Our core business is running football for kids not just the elite kids, but all kids looking to play soccer in Mayo.”
The FAI had not responded to a number of efforts to contact them for a comment at the time of going to print.

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