Player pool rule threat­ens the fu­ture of youth shinty

Argyllshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - Laura Maxwell editor@ar­gyll­shiread­ver­

The fu­ture of youth shinty in Mid Ar­gyll is un­der threat af­ter the sport’s rul­ing body en­forced a rule lim­it­ing the pool of play­ers from which pri­mary school teams can be se­lected.

Par­ents and vol­un­teer coaches at Kil­mory and Du­nadd Ju­nior Ca­manachd Club say there is a real threat the club could fold af­ter the Ca­manachd As­so­ci­a­tion told the club in the spring it would be barred from na­tional com­pe­ti­tion as it breached the up­per limit of 150 pupils.

Kil­mory and Du­nadd Ju­nior Ca­manachd re­cruits play­ers from three pri­mary schools – Lochgilp­head, Ar­dr­ishaig and Glas­sary – which have a com­bined roll of around 350.

But from these three schools, the club has just 37 play­ers to choose from, across all age groups.

The Ca­manachd As­so­ci­a­tion youth com­mit­tee pre­vi­ously agreed the rule would be re­laxed for 2015-16 and 2016-17 to en­cour­age clubs to de­velop more school-based teams.

That pe­riod of re­lax­ation has now ended - and some par­ents smell a rat.

‘The rule wasn’t en­forced un­til teams like Taynuilt, which is also af­fected by this rul­ing, and our­selves started do­ing well in na­tional com­pe­ti­tions,’ said one par­ent.

‘It’s al­right for clubs in the north, where shinty is en­cour­aged in schools. They might have 50 per cent par­tic­i­pa­tion, but that’s not the case in Ar­gyll.’

The Ca­manachd As­so­ci­a­tion’s argument is that the rule means the best play­ers can­not be cherry-picked from a wide pool, but it does not take the level of shinty par­tic­i­pa­tion in schools into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Ailsa Craw­ford, mum to keen shinty player Kain, said: ‘We have so few play­ers, we don’t even have subs.

‘When some­one can’t make a game we have to pull from the younger play­ers.’

There are fears the chil­dren will drift away if they are barred from na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. Nairn’s mum Su­san Jack­son ex­plained: ‘With­out this chal­lenge, there is a risk the chil­dren as play­ers will be­come stale and lose in­ter­est.’

Bute and Taynuilt pri­mary school shinty teams are fac­ing the same prob­lem. Ms Jack­son added: ‘The rule is send­ing out the wrong sig­nals to young­sters who want to play shinty.

‘The long-term im­pact will sadly be the in­evitable death of shinty in Mid Ar­gyll.’

A Ca­manachd As­so­ci­a­tion spokesper­son said: ‘Our schools com­pe­ti­tion rules are de­signed to en­sure a level play­ing field for all par­tic­i­pat­ing schools and play­ers and as a re­sult will sig­nif­i­cantly ben­e­fit all those tak­ing part.

‘We un­der­stand the frus­tra­tions of some clubs and we will con­tinue to work with them, and all mem­ber clubs, to cre­ate fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties through ex­ist­ing com­pe­ti­tions and our development pro­gramme.’

Young play­ers will not be able to play the best teams in Scot­land – and they can­not un­der­stand why.

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