Celtic Challenge aims to spread hurling beyond traditional strongholds
The competition will provide 1,300 players with a programme of 138 matches, which will begin in May and conclude in June
Liam Sheedy, Tipperary hurling manager, at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge 2019 at Croke Park. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
The fourth edition of the GAA’s Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge hurling competition will include 44 teams from all 32 counties, and, according to Tipperary hurling manager Liam Sheedy, can help grow the game beyond “the traditional hurling strongholds”.
Speaking at the event announcement in Croke Park, Sheedy highlighted the need to encourage participation and competition across all counties.
“If we want to deliver increased participation then it’s not just the traditional hurling strongholds we need to focus on but equally those counties who are working so hard to grow the wonderful game of hurling. The Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge is certainly playing its part in this regard, and I am thrilled to see it grow once again this year.”
The competition will provide 1,300 players with a programme of 138 matches, which will commence in May and conclude in June; the 44 teams from 32 counties will take part across eight groups, and include a mixture of county teams as well as sides that represent regions from within counties (e.g. Galway McDonagh and East Cork).
“The success of the competition is evidenced by the fact that this year Wicklow will be entering two teams – Wicklow Blue and Wicklow Gold – to compete in the competition,” added GAA president John Horan.
All players will be provided with a Celtic Challenge jersey as a memento of the competition, designed for each of the 44 teams and sponsored by O’Neill’s House of Sport. After an initial round-robin group phase of matches, teams will be graded on their performance, and will then be assigned to one of six divisions for the quarter-finals and semi-finals, where again they will compete against teams of a similar level of ability.
It will also feature a “pre-match talk” by the referee and the “best and fairest award” that will see referees after every match choose one player from each team selected on the basis of their skill level as well as the respect they showed to the playing rules, match officials and their fellow players.
The six divisional finals will be played on Saturday, June 29th, at O’Connor Park in Tullamore; the winning cups have been dedicated to the memory of Michael Hogan (age 24), John William Scott (age 14), William Robinson (age 11), Jerome O’Leary (age 10), Michael Feery (aged 40) and Tom Hogan (aged 21) – six of the victims from among the 14 people shot and killed on Bloody Sunday at Croke Park on November 21st, 1920.