Celtic Challenge launched
The GAA has launched details of a new national hurling competition that will celebrate mass participation and champion several exciting new initiatives in the game.
The Celtic Challenge is a new hurling championship that starts in May this year and is targeted at 16 and 17 year-old hurlers who are not sitting State Examinations this summer.
A total of 38 teams from across 31 counties and featuring county as well as regional sides will take part across seven groups that are determined on a geographical and developmental basis.
There will be 1,000 players involved in a programme of 110 matches that take place over seven weeks starting on May 4. Details of the new competitions were unveiled at Croke Park earlier today by Uachtarán Aogán Ó Fearghail and Paudie O’Néill, Chairperson of the Hurling Development Committee.
Aogán Ó Fearghail, Uachtarán CLG, said: “All of us involved in the GAA recognise only too well the enormous treasure that is the game of hurling and are fully cognisant of the fact that its health and well-being is something that has been entrusted to us to secure for future generations.
“This new competition has the potential to do just that and play a pivotal role in the nurturing and development of the great game.
“The best way of celebrating what we have is by playing our games. This initiative looks to support where the game of hurling is already well established while also looking to strengthen its presence in new areas.
“I believe our young players will embrace the Celtic Challenge as a chance to showcase their skill and to test themselves against their peers. This represents a new departure for hurling and will see an increase of almost 100 extra games being played with more than 800 additional players being involved.”
In total there will be 22 county teams and 16 sides that represent regions from within Tier 1 hurling counties such as South Kilkenny, Waterford City and West Limerick.
After an initial round-robin group phase of matches, teams will be graded on their performance and will then be assigned to one of five Divisions for the Preliminaries and the Play Offs where again they will compete against teams of a similar level of ability.
The five Divisional Finals will be played on Saturday, June 18th at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.
The cups have been named after five of the victims from among the 14 people shot and killed on Bloody Sunday at Croke Park on November 21st, 1920. The 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) and Michael Feery (aged 40). The trophies and medals have been kindly sponsored by the Past Hurlers’ Association.
Aside from the packed programme of matches, The Celtic Challenge will also feature a number of new initiatives on trial for the first time in Gaelic games.
A feature of the competition will be for referees and match officials to meet with the teams prior to the game.
There will also be a ‘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.
An interchange policy will be used instead of permanent substitutes which ensures every player on a squad can be involved in a game.
An innovative scoring system will be in operation for the group stages that will award a bonus point for a team that scores two or more goals, while also awarding a losing bonus point for a defeated team that loses by a margin of five points or less.
Paudie O’Neill said: “The Celtic Challenge represents the cornerstone of the Hurling Development Committee’s action plan.
“It is a reimagining of the Minor B and C grades and is focused on development rather than knock out competition and will provide 110 games rather than 13 and see the numbers of players involved rise from 240 to more than 1,000.”
The full list of the 38 teams taking part in the Celtic Challenge 2016 is:
Galway City/West, Leitrim, Mayo, North Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Carlow Dublin – Clarke, Dublin – Plunkett, Dublin – Pearse, Kildare, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, North Wexford, Offaly, South Kilkenny, South Wexford, Westmeath, Wicklow, Cork City, Kerry, Limerick City, North Clare, South/East Clare, North Cork, South Tipperary, Waterford City, West Limerick, Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Down, Donegal, Monaghan, Tyrone.