Kevin Doyle warns people will choose GAA over football in rural Ireland due to FAI's new plan

Kevin Doyle warns people will choose GAA over football in rural Ireland due to FAI's new plan

Former Irish footballer Kevin Doyle believes the FAI's new Football Pathways Plan will force kids who play football in rural Ireland to play GAA instead because of burnout.

This week, FAI Director of Football Marc Canham introduced the Football Pathways Plan at the Aviva Stadium, proposing that all youth football follow a calendar-year schedule. The plan suggests running leagues up to the U14 level from February to June, followed by activities like blitzes and camps. Leagues from U15 onwards would align with the regular League of Ireland season. While 65% of grassroots respondents support this change, concerns arise in areas where football competes with Gaelic games.

The FAI stated also, "The Football Pathways plan will also be delivered through a collaborative and consultative approach with the FA, who say they are committed to listening and gathering feedback on all elements of the plan. This initiative will also be supported by a clear, active, and effective implementation plan that is measured, evaluated, and monitored on an annual, quarterly, and monthly basis."

Doyle, a Wexford native, believes that the overlap of the football and GAA seasons will cause young players in his native county to burn out eventually.

"I'm involved day-to-day with my kids in Wexford in underage football. The first thing I look for is what we're going to get out of it," Doyle said this week.

"Unfortunately, the first thing I see is a problem. We are talking about aligning the seasons. It was summer soccer a few years ago. I think they've rebranded it now to the calendar year.

"Just in country clubs, in Wexford, in clubs like our own, we have a fabulous amount of players. I think we have the most players of any club in the county.

"But they all also play GAA in the summer. So this whole document is about getting more people involved—more players, more coaches.

"It'll be the opposite for us. We will lose players. Players will be burned out. Parents will be burned out."

The former Ireland player also admits it will be a nightmare for anyone with a group of kids in regards to what sport they do pick, himself included. Doyle believes that will eventually come down to one or the other in places like Wexford, and that will most likely be the GAA.

"It's not possible. I've got three young kids. They all play soccer, they all play GAA, they play hurling, and they play football," he added.

"It's a nightmare for us, that month at the start of the season and that month at the end of the season, where the whole lot overlaps. So for us to have to do that during the summer, it's just not going to work. We're going to have to pick one or the other.

"And in a country club like Wexford, it's going to be the GAA more often than not that will win it."