A child not getting any match time is a “child welfare issue” and should be reported to the Children’s Officer, Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne has said.
On Wednesday, The Hard Shoulder heard from one mother whose child was ready to give up on hurling because he was not allowed to play in matches.
Mary said that she had seen children crying on the sidelines and suggested that all players below a certain age all should be given equal game time.
“I actually feel that strongly about it,” she said.
“I don’t want my child to get better treatment, I want every child to be treated equally because they’re children.”
Minister Byrne listened to the interview and agreed that the situation described by Mary was not acceptable.
“There clearly are issues there,” he said.
“I just want to say at the outset that as Minister for Sport I can’t come in and start dictating to all the sporting organisations - they are independent.
“However… I think at age 14, everyone should get game time and, as I understand it, in County Meath GAA, that is a County Board rule.”
Every GAA team has a Children’s Officer who is tasked with “maintaining the safeguarding of children and young people” and Minister Byrne said a lack of game time should be reported to them.
“A kid who week in week out at age 14 is not getting any game time at all, in my opinion that is a child welfare issue,” he said.
“The Children’s Officer or the Welfare Officer in the club should be looking at that in that particular case.
“I cannot see how that’s justified in any way.”
He added that there should be national guidelines to protect children’s participation.
“I’m writing to Sport Ireland about this so we can have some idea as to what’s going on and to develop some kind of national policy on this.
“This needs to be looked at very urgently - if this is happening.”
Main image: Split of child footballers and Thomas Byrne TD.