Antrim Hurlers: Future ‘Leinster’ champions?

In a sign of the troubled state of Ulster hurling, Antrim Hurling chairman Pat Connolly, and Minor team joint Manager, Dominic McKinley, have publicly backed calls for the county’s Hurling teams to be allowed to participate in the Leinster provincial championships. Unlike football, hurling continues to be a sport played at the highest level by only a small number of counties- mostly confined to Munster and Leinster (except for Galway, of course.)

So has the time come for Hurling to abandon the provincial format altogether, or should Antrim find an ‘Antrim solution for an Antrim problem?’

  • slug

    Its a debate that Irish Cricket has.

    Is it better to have a big league covering all of Ireland or is it better to have the present local system where there is a separate league for the North West, for the North East, for Dublin, and so on. Obviously with a larger league you may get better teams but there is further to travel week-in week-out.

    Fortunately Irish Cricket seems to be in an improving state (both North and South), due to the unprecedentedly large number of people migrating into Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    Would that not lead Antrim to abandon Gaelic altogether? I can remember a time when the county could field a half decent team.

    Not so shocking I guess, since outside themselves, Derry and Down, no one in Ulster really knows one end of hurley from the other.

  • Aaron

    It’s long since time that the provincial hurling championships were done away with. As far as I can tell, the only reason to preserve them is because the Munster hurling final is such a great occasion.. and that’s not a good enough reason.

    Hurling will die if the format doesn’t change for the better.

  • KOD

    Antrims minors have a half decent team this year. Most of that team gave Limerick a good run for its money last year only losing by a point. Limerick lost the all ireland after that. Antrim should be cuter and wiser from last year and could cause a surprise

  • I have been thinking about this myself for a while. I wonder could they have a league type system. Because lets face it only. Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Clare, Limerick,Galway,Kilkenny,Wexford and Offaly are ever going to win the championship. The gulf to the other teams is to wide.

    How about a 9 team league for the championship.
    With maybe Antrim, Laois, Dublin, Westmeath being promoted and religated ever year from a lower devision

    and instead of the national league. Have a munster championship league and a rest championship league. with winners in both playing in the final

  • Garibaldy

    League would be good. Look at how playing against better teams has helped rugby (as well as the central contracts etc)

  • The Beach Tree

    The problem is Antrim got to play exclusively with the ‘big boys’ last year.

    They came last. Hence Christy Ring Hurling.

    The system currently in place is a good compromise between the integrity of the provincial championships and the need for several strong games.

    Further strengthening of the championship will only work from the ground up.

    And Mick, there may be punters in both the Nicky Rackard Cup, and the new Ulster Hurling League who would take issue with you about people knowing one end of a hurley from the other.

    They might even show you which end was which if you weren’t careful!

    As for Irish Cricket – perhaps to take the analogy further, the spereate leagues represent possible provincial squads of the future, a lá Rugby Union.

    Once upon a time, you’d be lucky to get 300 at a Munster rugby match…

  • Glen Taisie

    Having played for Antrim in the Leinster Minor Hurling Championship I think this is a good idea.


  • william

    Antrim should just pack it in, they have never been any good and never will be at hurling.
    I can’t think of a sport where a team had a bye to the semi-final every year for the best part of one hundred years and only made the final twice – not surprisingly losing both times!
    They should stick to sheep farming and allow Down and Derry hurling to develop.

  • Aidan

    I’d have Galway and Antrim play in a league in Leinster. Top 2 get into the AI semis, with the winner playing the Munster chamionship runners-up.

    Let Munster retain their championship – it’s a great thing, and there’s no need to mess with it.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I’m with you on this one, Aidan.

    Munster should protect what it has, though I do see the possibility of the Munster championship moving to a mini-league then Knock-out format, particularly if the Rest of Ireland conference was to go this route.

  • I’ve often thought that the GAA should move away from the provincial championships as a route to the All-Ireland final. Given that all 32 counties play in the National League, why not merge the two competitions and have one national championship starting in January and ending in September?

    First of all seed all the teams from one to four, eight teams per seeding category. Then divide them into groups of four, with one team of each seeding in each group. Each team in the group plays one another home and away. The top two teams in each group advance to the next stage, which is a knockout with the top teams from each group having home advantage. The quarter finals would then be played at neutral venues, and the semis and the All-Ireland in Croke Park.

    The lower teams could be given a further incentive, by having the eight third-placed teams in each of the qualifying groups going on for a lesser trophy, which could be played as curtain raisers for the big games.

    The Munster and Leinster championships could be contested alongside the main national championship.

  • The Devil

    Hurling is one of the few macho sports left in the world, a He-man sport not for the faint hearted, and this has been it’s problem…

    There are very few real men left in Antrim and even fewer in Antrim GAA, the amazing number of Gay men playing GAA football is staggering having been attracted to the high profile low contact pastime (pastime because this is no sport and should not be called one)a pastime that lets homosexuals molest each other in broad daylight on a grass pitch in front of thousands of paying voyeurs before retreating to spend time with each other in the showers is bound to be a magnet for practicing sodomites, the only greater magnet being that of a black shirt and dog-collar. The only hetrosexuals involved in the pastime of GAA gayball are there to lose the cider induced beer-belly a classic trait of a GAA football follower.

    So leave the hurling alone because it will survive while there are still real men out there, the problem for the GAA is that most of them are members of the D.U.P

  • Crow

    Why can Antrim not produce a good Gaelic football county team, especially with such a large nationalist population concentrated in Belfast?

  • McGrath

    Why can Antrim not produce a good Gaelic football county team, especially with such a large nationalist population concentrated in Belfast?

    Posted by Crow on Jun 07, 2006 @ 05:02 AM

    Lumpenproletariat factor.

  • Much of Kilkenny’s recent success over the real hurling counties is because they invest heavily in schools hurling which is where the money needs to be spent. Also, Antrim have been maith go leor @ camogie, an important point. And Down owe their “prominence” to the migration of Tipp men to the Ardglass area.
    My suggestions:
    1. an all Ireland forum for sport, with money to be divided on a fair basis.
    2. No money for cricket, hockey or anything to do with fancy boats, croquet or fencing.
    3. Hurling and camogie to be given special status and lots of development money.
    4. Gaa to be funded, rugby to a certain extent to keep the Orangies and aspiring socialites happy and schoolboy soccer the same.
    5. No money for the FAI as they are incompetent f-s, with the exception of Shels who have a colourful management.
    6. The NI soccer team to be disbanded, along with that of Scotland and Wales.
    7. Some other policies I can’t think of now to piss West Brits off even more. Maybe Gerry Adams, whose son Gearoid played football for Anrim, can help.
    8. Hurleys to be made compulsory at all riots, demonstrations and the like. Hurleys to replace baseball bats in all punishment beatings.
    8. One more point: Someone asks why Antrim are truly crap at football (=GAA) The county system, which is an outcrop of British imperialist oppression, has also led to domestic oppression with many GAA counties being held back by intransigent secretaries etc. Kildare was, for long, a case in point.
    9. This applies more so with soccer which is led by a lot of left footers (in the sporting sense) with no business acumen.
    10. Contrast this with the noble GAA and the Fermanagh factor, ie the Quinn brothers, whose brief reign gave us the Croke Park etc we have now.

  • Baluba

    All the inane ramblings aside, I’ll try to bring this back to the point.

    I agree with Gerry O’S. A system not unlike the Aussie Rules system could work. Teams do need to be challenged to raise their game, but constant 30 point hammerings by vastly superior sides benefits no-one.

    The point about schools and juvenile hurling is also a very important one. Look at how Naomh Gall have improved their football pedigree through years of an excellent, dedicated juvenile program.

    Some serious work also needs to be done (especially in the cities) to stop losing great talent between minor and senior, and to do this we need to encourage the U-21 championships!

    In the short-term, yes, send Antrim to Leinster and keep them in the Christy Brown!

  • carlosblancos

    I’m no hurling expert, merely a humble follower, but I don’t understand why anyone would suggest playing in Leinster.

    Instead of winning the Ulster and never getting to a final, playing in the Leinster Provincial championship would mean never winning anything and endless treks South every weekend, truly a death for hurling in Antrim in terms of fan following. Leinster belongs to Kilkenney and Wexford. Even Offaly haven’t won since 1995.

    And, to be honest, these comments would have even less grounding had the minors not scored a cricket victory, and the NY debacle hadn’t surfaced. Also, Antrim aren’t the giants some clearly think. Lets remember that Derry won the Ulster as recently as 2000 and 2001.

    Such a move wouldn’t be a case of ‘Celtic and Rangers moving to the English league’. Antrim hold a strange place in hurling, they’re unlikely ever to win the LMcC on current form and, more importantly schools structure, but will probably walk the Christy Ring this year.

    I don’t know the answer to this, but I know a move to the Leinster Championship solves nothing.

  • Ringo

    The Christy Brown? Is that like the Liam Gallagher and the Nicky from Westlife Cups?

    Antrim are in a difficult spot. Like Carlos I don’t think there is much use moving to the Leinster. It may be counter-productive, because it only serves to strengthen the provincial competitions – which is why Leinster invited Galway a couple of years back. If they concentrate on imporving the club game in Antrim the inter-county side will benefit to a much greater degree that it ever could by playing in Leinster.

  • Baluba

    On the contrary CB, I believe the treks down south to play competitive but utterly winable games would give Antrim fans games to be interested in. People don’t like to see their team slaughter or be slaughtered, it just isn’t entertaining.

    Hopefully the Christy Ring will give us something to get excited about again.

    Antrim can play excellent hurling at times and recentish, thrilling championship matches against the likes of Wexford are a testament to that. What the county fals down on is belief in the latter stages of the c’ship again and again. If we can gain some consistent success in the Christy Ring and build up belief in our hurling, and get into ‘the habit of winning’, we can maybe then compete better with the big teams further down the line.

    Obviously the gap in professionalism between ourselves and the likes of Cork is huge and a different problem altogether. Clare even found that recently.

    Antrim needs to invest money in hurling (and football too if needs be I suppose).

  • pid


    So the Gaelic Athletic Association do away with the provincial angle (Gaelic Boundaries) and concentrate on the County (English Boundaries, by and large).

    But the Gaelic provincial identities will be maintained by the Rugby fraternity.

    There is a lesson here, somewhere.

  • Pid: Louth and Leitrim are in Ulster, Westmeath is in Meath (try selling that one to the good Midland folk when I am not around. I don’t know where Longford are or if they have a hurling club. Pity they lost to the Dubs (population: 25% of Ireland and bad at all games).
    How did the O Hailpins get so good at it?

  • How did the O Hailpins get so good at it?

    That reminds me of a comment made by Michéal Ó Muiracheartaigh in admiration of the talent of Cork’s Seán Óg Ó hAilpín during a game once. It went something like this: “His father’s from Fermanagh, his mother is from Fiji, neither place particularly well-known for their hurling.”

  • carlosblancos

    Pid: hardly the point. And if you’re gonna get really fussy remember that Meath and Westmeath were once their own province. The Irish for Province, I think, is cuige, meaning ‘fifth’.

    Taigs: Louth was in Ulster. Leitrim I don’t think so.

    Baluba: diplomatically, we could say that, given the strong state of football, it isn’t in a much need of ‘financial resources’.

  • Declan

    European hurling team to play Donegal

    Hello County Europe – goodbye New York?

  • Declan: Greetings from Country Asia. Might be something in this: perhaps a stepping stone to the real 37 county Ireland ( Asia, Africa etc: no need to annex Antarctica though it could be useful for rerouting Orange marches).
    Carlos: Leitrim is as Ulster as Finchley. The O’Donnells and McDermotts used to rule the roost there.
    Speaking of our forgotten provinces, one thing has always puzzled me. In the film The Quiet Man, the railway workers are talking about a hurling match between Mayo and some other hopeless Harrys. Surely this was a mistake. I mean when we have Larneman claiming Larne Rangers supporters play hurling….
    On the subject of Fiji hurling (well, close): I once watched a John Pilger movie about taking up the white man’s burden in County Africa. There was a jungle clearing, 1930s, lots of black cailini agus buachailli, and a big white Father spreading imperialism. The music began and the kids started dancing. Fallai Luimni.
    Soon County Africa will do the double: the Sam Maguire and the World Cup. But it will take them a while longer to beat the other counties in hurling, the game they play in County Heaven.

  • páid

    Antrim are cut off from the rest of Ireland’s decent hurling counties.

    Perhaps they should join their kith and kin in the shinty league 😉

  • brendan,belfast

    I disagree Carlos. trips to Leinster to play say, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath and Dublin (all beatable on current form) and to have a go at Kilkenny every now and then would provide an interest.

    I have sat in Casement too many times recently and been utterly uninspired by the matches on views. (Except for the Galway vistory in this year’s league).

    Only the Cats would be genuinely out of our league for the foreseeable future.

  • peter

    there must be funding put in throughout the province in underage hurling maybe the funding from sell out football games in the province can contribute. this is not a case for antrim hurling but how structures can be put at an underage level accross the country to stop the erosion of this ancient and beautiful game.

  • carlosblancos

    The Antrim Down match (to be repeated in the Christy Ring) was very dissappointing. I agree that playing teams like Dublin, Westmeath etc would be great for Antrim, but I still think making the phyiscal drive to all those grounds every other week, with no home games played in Casement isn’t an ideal situation.

  • Cap’n Morgan

    mostly confined to Munster and Leinster (except for Galway, of course.)

    You have forgotten New York