We’ve reached the middle of May, the National Football League is over, the hard winter training has been done, peak fitness levels have been reached and the training ground moves are given their final polishing- it can only mean one thing – the return of the GAA Football Championship! The Year 2009 is truly special for the GAA, as it is 125th Anniversary of the founding of the Association in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, Co.Tipperary. Our national games have developed greatly since the formative years of the organisation and have never been as popular.
With the Gaelic Games season returning this coming weekend, we have put together some tidbits of useful information relating to the GAA Football Championship, so sit back and enjoy…
· Did you know that the first ever All Ireland Football Final was played in 1887, and it was actually played by clubs representing their counties in an open draw, knockout format? A Limerick Club called Commercials defeated Young Irelanders of County Louth by 1-04 to 0-3. Only eight teams featured in the inaugural All Ireland Football Championship, hard to believe today.
· The winning trophy for the present day All Ireland Champions is called the Sam Maguire Cup, named after the famous Corkman, and the cup has been presented to winning captains since 1928, and was replicated in design in 1987. It is similar in design to the Ardagh Chalice.
· Nowadays, all 32 counties from the island of Ireland usually enter a team into their respective Provincial Tournament (with the exception in recent years of Kilkenny footballers). Two further teams that represent the Irish diaspora in London and New York also ompete in the All Ireland Championships.
· The GAA Senior Football Championship was originally a knock out tournament – and the four Provincial Tournaments were played between counties to decide the winning county. The four winners from each province then compete against each other in All Ireland Semi Finals for a place in the All Ireland Final.
· The Year 2001 saw changes made to the GAA Football Championships for the first time – beaten teams in the Provincial Championships were allowed back into “qualifier rounds” – in a back door method of qualification. This effectively means that a team defeated in their Province can re-enter the All Ireland Championship through the qualifier stage – and end up still getting to the final providing they win their games! In fact, the very first year of its inception saw Galway coming from the qualifier route to win the All Ireland Championship. In recent years (2005 and 2006) both Tyrone and Kerry have re-entered from the Qualifier stage and won the GAA Football Championship.
· 19 different counties have won the Football Championship – with Kerry leading the roll of honour with 35 titles won, Dublin with 22, Galway with 9 and then Meath with 7. The current holders of the Sam Maguire are Tyrone, who secured their third ever title in September 2008, scuppering Kerry’s bid for three titles in a row in the process.
· This Sunday, the 17th of May sees the ball thrown in for the start of the 2009 GAA Football Championship. In Ulster, Fermanagh (who have never actually won the Ulster Title but who came ever so close in 2008) play Down (aristocrats of the game who however have gone into decline in the past 15 years), in the first round of the Ulster Championship. In Leinster, Carlow take on Louth. The first big games to look out for are both in the Ulster Championship, with Derry taking on Monaghan on May 24th, and All Ireland Champions Tyrone taking on Ulster Title holders Armagh on May 31st.
· The big games in the 2009 Football Championship are all going to be covered by Irish television (either RTE2 or TV3) so if you don’t have a ticket, don’t despair, either watch at home or head to a hostelry of your choice and watch the action unfold.
· The All Ireland Final takes place at Croke Park, the wonderful home of the GAA. The Football Championship decider takes place usually on the third Sunday every September.
· Ulster Bank, Toyota and Vodafone will sponsor the 2009 GAA Football Championships. This lucrative sponsorship is proof of the huge appeal of the GAA even in these recessionary times, and come the big games at Croke Park, Clones, Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney and Pearse Stadium Galway, the crowds will throng to see players give their all in a game that is professional in all but name.
Find out more about the 2009 GAA Football Championship.
Find out more about Croke Park Dublin.
So, if you are planning to go to one of the 2009 GAA Football Championship games around Ireland, you may need a room for the night. Check out our Ireland Accommodation page.
What are your thoughts on the 2009 Football Championship? Can you see beyond Tyrone or Kerry lifting the Sam Maguire Cup this September? Who are the dark horses for this year’s championship – will there be a surprise package? Since 2001 just three teams (Kerry, Tyrone and Armagh) have won the Football All Ireland Championship – will there be a different winner this year? Let us know your thoughts!