We mark your card with the key hurling dates for 2018 as the Tribesmen look to defend their Liam MacCarthy Cup crown, and recap the main changes to the hurling format
After last year’s euphoria, as Galway ended their 28-year wait to get their hands on the Liam MacCarthy Cup, will the Tribesmen have the hunger to go again in 2018? That’s the question on everyone’s lips.
For Galway, it’s going to be a huge mental test and they’ll no doubt have taken heed of how Tipperary fell short after their All Ireland winning exploits of 2016.
Galway will want to put in a strong showing in defence of their crown, and won’t want to tarnish their efforts of 2017 by meekly surrendering Liam in 2018.
Galway will be the team to beat and as such will have a target on their back, but expect Joe Canning and Co to rise to the challenge.
Where is that challenge likely to come from? Expect runners up Waterford to be there or thereabouts, as will the usual suspects in Tipperary and Kilkenny, but one to watch could be Cork.
This young Rebels side impressed last year with their style of play and it will be interesting to see how they develop in 2018.
Cork begin the defence of their Munster title against Clare in a rematch of last year’s final, while Leinster champions Galway kick-off their campaign against Offaly.
It will also be intriguing to see how the changes to the Senior Hurling Championship format play out, with their now being five tiers in hurling – Liam MacCarthy Cup, Joe McDonagh Cup, Christy Ring Cup, Nicky Rackard Cup and the Lory Meagher Cup.
From 2018, there will be two Leinster and Munster Championship round robin groups involving five teams in each. The top two in each group will contest the respective provincial deciders.
The provincial final winners advance to the All Ireland semi-finals, while the beaten provincial finalists will contest the All Ireland quarter-finals.
The 2018 Leinster Championship will feature Galway, Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin and Offaly, while Munster will be made up of Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare and Limerick.
The Joe McDonagh Cup has been established to facilitate those counties striving to compete at Liam MacCarthy Cup level, and will be made up of Antrim, Carlow, Kerry, Laois, Meath and Westmeath.
The finalists in a new Joe McDonagh Cup will play the third place teams in Munster and Leinster in a preliminary quarter-final. The winners of that game, will go through to the quarter-finals proper.
Elsewhere, Fergus McMahon’s London side face Derry, Down and Armagh in their Christy Ring Cup group.
Before that, the Exiles begin their Division 2A League campaign against Kerry at McGovern Park on Sunday 28th January, before taking on Kildare, Meath, Carlow and Westmeath.
All of the London hurlers’ league games will be at home in 2018, and having only just avoided relegation in 2017, the Exiles will be keen to make an impact at the other end of the table.
Elsewhere, Warwickshire’s hurlers will compete in the Nicky Rackard Cup for the first time following their Lory Meagher success in 2017. It will be intriguing to see how they get on.
Lancashire will fly the flag for Britain in the Lory Meagher Cup, and likewise it will be intriguing to see what impact they can make, particularly as the county will warm up for the championship by taking part in the National Hurling League for the first time in 2018.
They line up alongside Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh in Division 3B.
The 2018 Allianz Hurling League fixtures open with a Croke Park double-header, as Pat Gilroy’s Dublin get things underway against Offaly in Division 1B, with Dublin’s footballers also in action.
Galway will open their Allianz League defence in Division 1B at home to Antrim on Sunday 28th January.
The Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final will take place on Saturday evening, March 24th, while the Division 1 and Division 2 Allianz Football Finals will take place on Easter Sunday, April 1st.
Provincial Championship Fixtures 2018
Leinster SHC – Offaly v Galway
Leinster SHC – Dublin v Kilkenny
May 20th Munster SHC – Cork v Clare, Limerick v Tipperary
Leinster SHC – Kilkenny v Offaly Wexford v Dublin
Leinster SHC – Offaly v Wexford
Munster SHC – Tipperary v Cork, Clare v Waterford
Leinster SHC – Galway v Kilkenny
Munster SHC – Cork v Limerick
Leinster SHC – Wexford v Galway
June 3rd Munster SHC – Waterford v Tipperary
Leinster SHC – Dublin v Offaly
June 9th Leinster SHC – Kilkenny v Wexford, Galway v Dublin
June 10th Munster SHC – Limerick v Waterford, Tipperary v Clare
Munster SHC – Clare v Limerick, Waterford v Cork
2pm Munster Hurling Final
4pm Leinster Hurling Final
All Ireland Hurling Final
Joe McDonagh Cup*
Round 1: Meath v Antrim, Carlow v Kerry, Laois v Westmeath
Round 2: Westmeath v Meath, Antrim v Carlow, Kerry v Laois
Round 3: Carlow v Meath, Kerry v Westmeath, Antrim v Laois
Round 4: Meath v Kerry, Laois v Carlow, Westmeath v Antrim
Round 5: Meath v Laois, Carlow v Westmeath, Antrim v Kerry
The winners of the Joe McDonagh Cup, is a non-Munster team, will be promoted to the Leinster Championship ‘Round-Robin’ and Liam MacCarthy Cup.
If the winner of the Tier 2 Championship is a Munster team, it must win the play-off with the bottom placed team in the Munster Championship ‘Round-Robin’ to gain Promotion to the Munster Championship ‘Round-Robin’ and Liam MacCarthy Cup.
The bottom placed team in the Tier 2 Championship shall be relegated to the Christy Ring Cup.
Christy Ring Cup*
Round 1: Kildare v Roscommon, Wicklow v Mayo
Round 2: Mayo v Kildare, Roscommon v Wicklow
Round 3: Wicklow v Kildare, Roscommon v Mayo
Round 1: Derry v London, Down v Armagh
Round 2: Armagh v Derry, London v Down
Round 3: Derry v Down, Armagh v London
The top two teams in each Group shall qualify for the semi-finals, in which the winners of each Group shall play the Runners-Up of the other Group.
In 2018, the winners of the final shall play the team that finishes second last in the Joe McDonagh Cup.
The winners of that game shall play in the Joe McDonagh Cup and the Losers shall play in the Christy Ring Cup.
The bottom team in each Group will be relegated to the Nicky Rackard Cup.
Nicky Rackard Cup*
Round 1: Louth v Warwickshire; Monaghan v Longford
Round 2: Longford v Louth; Warwickshire v Monaghan
Round 3: Louth v Monaghan; Longford v Warwickshire
Round 1: Tyrone v Donegal
Round 2: Donegal v Leitrim
Round 3: Leitrim v Tyrone
The top two teams in each Group shall qualify for the semi-finals, in which the winners of each Group shall play the runners-up of the other group.
The winners of the final shall be promoted to the Christy Ring Cup. The bottom team in each group shall play-off and the losers shall be relegated to the Lory Meagher Cup.
Lory Meagher Cup*
Round 1: Fermanagh v Cavan; Lancashire v Sligo
Round 2: Sligo v Fermanagh; Cavan v Lancashire
Round 3: Fermanagh v Lancashire; Sligo v Cavan
Played on a ‘Round-Robin’ basis, the two top placed teams shall play in the final. Promotion is applicable to the following year, when the winners shall be promoted to the Nicky Rackard Cup.
*Dates, times and venues to be confirmed
Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
Round 1: Saturday January 27th, Cork v Kilkenny; Sunday, January 28th, Clare v Tipperary, Waterford v Wexford
Round 2: Saturday February 3rd, Tipperary v Waterford; Sunday, February 4th, Kilkenny v Clare, Wexford v Cork
Round 3: Saturday February 17th, Tipperary v Wexford; Sunday, February 18th, Clare v Cork, Waterford v Kilkenny
Round 4: Sunday February 25th, Kilkenny v Tipperary, Cork v Waterford, Wexford v Clare
Round 5: Sunday March 4th, Kilkenny v Wexford, Tipperary v Cork, Waterford v Clare
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
Round 1: Saturday, January 27th: Dublin v Offaly; Sunday January 28th: Galway v Antrim, Limerick v Laois
Round 2: Saturday, February 3rd: Laois v Galway; Sunday February 4th: Antrim v Dublin, Offaly v Limerick
Round 3: Saturday, February 17th: Laois v Antrim, Limerick v Dublin; Sunday, February 18th: Galway v Offaly
Round 4: Sunday, February 25th: Antrim v Limerick, Dublin v Galway, Offaly v Laois
Round 5: Sunday, March 4th: Galway v Limerick, Laois v Dublin, Offaly v Antrim
Allianz Hurling League Division 2A
Round 1: Sunday January 28th: London v Kerry, Kildare v Meath, Carlow v Westmeath
Round 2: Saturday February 3rd: London v Meath; Sunday February 4th: Westmeath v Kildare, Kerry v Carlow
Round 3: Saturday February 17th: London v Carlow; Sunday February 18th: Meath v Westmeath, Kildare v Kerry
Round 4: Sunday February 25th: London v Westmeath, Kerry v Meath, Carlow v Kildare
Round 5: Sunday March 4th: Westmeath v Kerry, Meath v Carlow, London v Kildare
Allianz Hurling League Division 2B
Round 1: Sunday January 28th: Derry v Down, Wicklow v Armagh, Mayo v Donegal
Round 2: Sunday February 4th: Donegal v Derry, Down v Wicklow, Armagh v Mayo
Round 3: Sunday February 18th: Wicklow v Donegal, Down v Armagh, Derry v Mayo
Round 4: Sunday February 25th: Mayo v Wicklow, Derry v Armagh, Donegal v Down
Round 5: Sunday March 4th: Armagh v Donegal, Wicklow v Derry, Down v Mayo
Allianz Hurling League Division 3A
Round 1: Sunday January 28th: Roscommon v Louth, Tyrone v Warwickshire, Longford v Monaghan
Round 2: Sunday February 4th: Warwickshire v Longford, Monaghan v Roscommon, Louth v Tyrone
Round 3: Sunday February 18th: Louth v Warwickshire, Roscommon v Longford, Monaghan v Tyrone
Round 4: Sunday February 25th: Longford v Louth, Tyrone v Roscommon, Warwickshire v Monaghan
Round 5: Sunday March 4th: Longford v Tyrone, Roscommon v Warwickshire, Monaghan v Louth
Allianz Hurling League Division 3B
Round 1: Sunday January 28th: Sligo v Leitrim, Lancashire v Fermanagh
Round 2: Sunday February 4th: Leitrim v Lancashire, Cavan v Sligo
Round 3: Sunday February 18th: Fermanagh v Leitrim, Lancashire v Cavan
Round 4: Sunday February 25th: Sligo v Lancashire, Cavan v Fermanagh
Round 5: Sunday March 4th: Leitrim v Cavan, Fermanagh v Sligo
Why is Hurling League final scheduled for a Saturday?
Given the need to complete the leagues by the start of April (and to preserve that month for clubs), the last round of the football league and the Hurling league final required to be scheduled on the same weekend.
The C.C.C.C felt that it would be wrong to schedule both on the same day (not to mention the possibilities of a Cork or a Dublin or a Galway being in the Hurling final and involved in a big football game on the same day) – to that end, it was obvious that one of either the final round of the football league or the Hurling Final needed to be on the Saturday.
Given the availability of suitable venues with floodlights in the Southern half of the Country, it was felt that it was the right time to trial the playing of the Hurling League final on a Saturday evening.
It should be noted that if Tipperary and Kilkenny were to meet in the Allianz Hurling League final, that game would take place in Nowlan Park (due to an arrangement between the two Counties). In that scenario, the Hurling League final would take place on the Sunday.
Why are the Leinster and Munster Hurling Finals on the same day?
In order to avoid a “six-day turnaround” in the football championship, the necessity of playing the Munster and Leinster Hurling finals on the same day had to be considered.
This had never been done before as C.C.C.C and the provinces had always sought to maximise our opportunities to promote hurling in the context of a championship (before the recent changes agreed) that had very few high-profile games in the early part of the season.