The Year 2009 holds a special significance for the GAA – the association that promotes our National Games celebrates its 125th year of existence. With the return of the 2009 GAA Senior Hurling Championship at the end of May with the titanic clash of Tipperary v Cork in Thurles, we have compiled a list of the things you need to know about the All Ireland Hurling Championship! Read on for more…
· The very first All Ireland Hurling Final took place in 1887 – and in the early years the championship took the format of a club team representing their county and due to the circumstances of the time very few counties sent a team to represent them. The first title decider was played at Birr Co. Offaly, and was won by Thurles from Tipperary who defeated Meelick a club from East Galway.
· The trophy that is presented to the winning All Ireland Hurling Championship team is called the Liam McCarthy Cup. The Cup, which is named after the Limerick man, who is steeped in GAA folklore, was first presented in 1921, and has been in use ever since.
· Just 12 counties in Ireland compete for the Liam McCarthy Cup.
· The GAA Senior Hurling Championship was originally a knock out tournament – with Provincial Championships held in Munster and Leinster, and up to recent years a Connacht Final. For many years, Galway alone were nominated to represent Connacht. The three provincial winners would play semi finals and every second year the Munster team would have a bye to the Final. From 1986 the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship was revitalized and its winners would have the right to play in an All Ireland semi final against their Leinster or Munster equivalent.
· For the very first time in 1997 there were amendments made to the format of the All Ireland Hurling Championships – beaten provincial finalists were allowed to re-enter the All Ireland series at the quarter final stage, in a “back door” method of qualification. In fact, the first year of the new format saw beaten Munster Finalists Tipperary reach the All Ireland final where they were beaten by Clare. 1998 saw beaten Leinster Finalists Offaly reach the final, where they reversed the Leinster result by beating Kilkenny. The only other county to re-emerge from the back door to win the All Ireland title was Cork in 2004.
· 13 counties have won the All Ireland Hurling Championship at least once – Kilkenny head the roll of honour, with 31 titles, Cork are second with 30 titles and Tipperary next with 25 titles.
· The current titleholders are Brian Cody’s Kilkenny – who are going for a staggering fourth All Ireland Hurling Title in a row this year. Such a feat was only ever achieved by Cork during 1941-45. Three teams have won the McCarthy Cup on three consecutive occasions – Kilkenny (2006-2008), Cork (1892-94, 1941-43, 1952-54 & 1976-78) and Tipperary (1949-51).
· The period of 1994-98 was perhaps the beginning of the golden era for hurling – not only were games transmitted live to the Irish public for the very first time, there was also the major refurbishment of Croke Park and major sponsorship of the championship by Guinness. It was the era of the “Underdog” in the Hurling Championship – with counties like Wexford, Clare, Offaly, Waterford and Limerick re-emerging from years of wilderness and garnering titles and plenty of respect for the style of their hurling.
During this era, Waterford and Limerick found winning the All Ireland elusive and lost games in heartbreaking circumstances. However, in this period Wexford won their first All Ireland for nearly 30 years and Clare won the title in 1995 for the first time in a staggering 81 years. Offaly continued their progress in this era as a top tier hurling team, adding to their two titles won in the 1980′s in 1994 and 1998. Since 1999 however, the aristocrats of hurling have taken over the hurling landscape, and only in 2001 when Tipperary won the Championship has a county other than Cork or Kilkenny been successful.
· Don’t despair if you cannot access a ticket for the big hurling games of 2009 – RTE2 and TV3 will cover all of the action!
· Croke Park, with its 82,300 capacity, is the venue for the All Ireland Hurling Final, which is usually held on the first Sunday of September. Etihad Airways and Guinness are the two official sponsors of the All Ireland Hurling Championships. Make sure to try and attend a game if possible this year – the match day atmosphere at Semple Stadium Thurles and Croke Park is second to none.
Find out more about the 2009 GAA Hurling Championship.
Find out more about the wonderful Croke Park Stadium.
If you intend heading to one of the 2009 GAA Hurling Championship games around Ireland, you may need some accommodation for the night before or after the match! Check out our Ireland Hotels page.
Well, is there anyone going to stop the dream team from Kilkenny winning the Four in a Row? After beating Tipperary in a thrilling National League final, the Kilkenny Cats look unbeatable, but could be troubled by teams that play in their faces and do not give them time on the ball. Is this the year someone usurps the true aristocrats of the game? Or will it be more of the same, Kilkenny winning with a swagger and style? Give us your thoughts on the 2009 GAA Hurling Championship – we would love to hear from you!