Galway the team to beat in 2018

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
3 September 2017; The Galway team celebrate with the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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.

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
3 September 2017; Galway captain David Burke lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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.

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
9 July 2017; The Cork team and officials celebrate with the cup after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Clare and Cork at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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

May 12th
Leinster SHC – Offaly v Galway

May 13th
Leinster SHC – Dublin v Kilkenny

May 20th Munster SHC – Cork v Clare, Limerick v Tipperary

Leinster SHC – Kilkenny v Offaly Wexford v Dublin
May 26/27th
Leinster SHC – Offaly v Wexford

May 27th
Munster SHC – Tipperary v Cork, Clare v Waterford

Leinster SHC – Galway v Kilkenny

June 2nd
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

June 17th
Munster SHC – Clare v Limerick, Waterford v Cork

July 1st
2pm Munster Hurling Final
4pm Leinster Hurling Final

August 19th
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.

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
10 June 2017; Carlow captain Martin Kavanagh lifts the Christy Ring Cup after the Christy Ring Cup Final match between Antrim and Carlow at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Christy Ring Cup*

Group 1
Round 1: Kildare v Roscommon, Wicklow v Mayo

Round 2: Mayo v Kildare, Roscommon v Wicklow

Round 3: Wicklow v Kildare, Roscommon v Mayo

Group 2
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.

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
10 June 2017; Derry players celebrate after the Nicky Rackard Cup Final match between Armagh and Derry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Nicky Rackard Cup*

Group 1
Round 1: Louth v Warwickshire; Monaghan v Longford

Round 2: Longford v Louth; Warwickshire v Monaghan

Round 3: Louth v Monaghan; Longford v Warwickshire

Group 2
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.

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
10 June 2017; Warwickshire manager Tony Joyce, centre, and his team celebrate after the Lory Meagher Cup Final match between Leitrim and Warwickshire at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
23 April 2017; Joe Canning, left, and captain David Burke of Galway celebrate with the cup after the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final match between Galway and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

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

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
1 April 2017; Simon McCrory of Antrim lifts the cup after the Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Final match between Antrim and Carlow at Páirc Esler, in Newry. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

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

Galway set Liam McCarthy pace
1 April 2017; The Meath team celebrate with the cup after the Allianz Hurling League Division 2B Final match between Meath and Wicklow at Parnell Park, in Dublin. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

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.


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Tribesmen end their long wait for Liam

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