Eight of #TheToughest clubs battle for glory
The final countdown to one of the most significant days in the GAA calendar began today as AIB, proud sponsors of the Club Championships for a 29th season, hosted hurlers TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh) and footballers Liam Silke (Corofin) and Conor Laverty (Kilcoo) ahead of this Sunday’s AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling and Football Club Championship Finals. Held in Croke Park throw in on the 19th January is 2pm for hurling and 4pm for football.
Also, in attendance today were hurlers Pádraig Walsh (Tullaroan), Declan Dalton (Fr O’Neills), James Bergin (Conahy Shamrocks) and Brian Hartnett (Russell Rovers) as they prepare for this Saturday’s respective AIB GAA All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior Hurling Club Championship Finals, also in Croke Park.
First to take to the hallowed turf this weekend will be Conahy Shamrocks of Kilkenny who take on Russell Rovers of Cork in the Junior showpiece which gets underway at 4pm. The Kilkenny men, represented by James Bergin, captured their second Leinster Intermediate title earlier this season. Meanwhile, Russell Rovers represented by former Cork hurler Brian Hartnett, are in the final for the first time, having secured their maiden county and provincial titles in 2019.
Cork’s Fr. O’Neills will contest the Intermediate crown which throws in at 6pm with Tullaroan GAA, the second of three Kilkenny teams competing for silverware. Declan Dalton of Fr. O’Neills and Cork Senior Hurler has been in fine form for his club team, chipping in with ten points in their semi-final win over Tooreen. Tullaroan, represented by talisman Padraig Walsh, made light work of their semi-final opponents Naomh Éanna of Antrim, having restored their senior status with an emotional county final win back in October.
Sunday will see Tipperary Champions Borris-Ileigh take on Kilkenny powerhouses Ballyhale Shamrocks, who are vying for their second title in as many years. The current holders and record seven-time champions, represented by talisman TJ Reid, have been in imperious form on their march back to Croke Park. Borris-Ileigh, meanwhile, bridged a 33-year gap when they captured the Tipperary SHC title, before claiming provincial success over Ballygunner of Waterford, with Tipperary stalwart Dan McCormack central to his club’s success this season.
The football final will see first-time finalists Kilcoo of Down take on current champions Corofin. The Galway men, represented by Liam Silke, are vying for their third All-Ireland title in as many years, and are tipped by many to be the first club team to achieve such a feat. In their way stand the men from the Mourne Mountains, represented by club captain Conor Laverty, who have won the admiration of fans across the country with their hardworking style, seen prominently in their surprise win over Leinster champions Ballyboden St. Endas in the semi-final.
While some of the teams have previously experienced the joys of being crowned All-Ireland champions, they know not only what’s at stake this weekend, but also the mammoth task that awaits them. For those in their first final, there will be an incredible hunger and motivation to lay claim to #TheToughest title of them all at Croke Park.
Tickets remain on sale at https://www.gaa.ie/tickets/
Speaking ahead of the upcoming AIB GAA Club Championship Finals, AIB GAA Champion Denis O’Callaghan, said: “All of us in AIB are so proud of our long-standing involvement with the AIB GAA All Ireland Club Championship. This is our 29th year sponsoring these incredible Championships that represent all that is great about GAA in particular, the opportunity for players to represent their communities on the biggest stage of all and claim one of #TheToughest trophies to win in sport. A title that means so much not just to the players but to the community that they represent. We commend and are grateful not just to the players but to the clubs, the coaches, the volunteers and the fans for the steadfast and passionate support they have shown all season.”