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The GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship is an annual hurling competition organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association since 1887 for the top hurling teams in Ireland.

The series of games are played during the summer months with the All-Ireland final being played on the second Sunday in September in Croke Parkmarker, Dublinmarker. The prize for the winning team is the Liam McCarthy Cup. The championship was initially a straight knockout competition open only to the champions of each of the four provinces of Ireland. During the 1990s the tournament began to be expanded, firstly incorporating a 'back-door system' and later a round-robin group phase and more games.

The championship currently consists of several stages. In the present format it begins in late May with the provincial championships in Leinster and Munster. Once a team is defeated in the provincial stage they only have one more chance to compete for the All-Ireland title. The Munster and Leinster champions gain automatic admission to the All-Ireland semi-finals, where they are joined by the two winners of the qualifiers via two lone All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Twelve teams currently participate in the championship, the most dominant teams coming from the provinces of Leinster and Munster. Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary are considered to be 'the big three' of hurling. Between them, these teams have won the championship on 86 occasions during its history.

The title has been won by 13 different teams, 10 of which have won the title more than once. The all-time record-holders are Kilkenny, who have won the competition 32 times. Kilkenny are also the current champions.


Following the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association on November 1, 1884, one of the association's early aims was the promotion of a national competition that involved the Gaelic games of Gaelic football and hurling. At the third meeting of the new organisation in January 1885, new rules for the ancient game of hurling were drawn up and were soon published in local newspapers throughout the country. In 1886 county boards were created to run the affairs of the various counties that participated in the competition. By 1887 the first All-Ireland Hurling Championship took place. Although only five teams participated, it was a step in the right direction for the organisation.

For the first few years of the championship the various counties were represented by the team who won the county club championship. For instance, the 1887 championship saw Thurlesmarker representing Tipperary and Meelick representing Galway. Dedicated inter-county teams were only introduced in 1895 when Cork put forward a mixture of all the best players from that county's best local clubs. Over the early years various changes were made in the rules of hurling, and its sister sport, Gaelic football. Teams were reduced from 21 players to 17 and eventually to the current number of 15, and the rules regarding the value of a goal were also tweaked in the first few years of the competition.

The provincial championships were introduced in 1888 in Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster on a knock-out basis. The winners of the provincial finals participated in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Over time the Leinster and Munster teams grew to become the superpowers of the game, as Gaelic football was the more dominant sport in Ulster and Connacht. After some time Galway became the only credible team in Connacht and was essentially given an automatic pass to the All-Ireland semi-final every year. This knock-out system persisted for over 100 years and was considered to be the fairest system as the All-Ireland champions would always be the only undefeated team of the year.

In the mid-1990s the Gaelic Athletic Association looked at developing a new system whereby a defeat in the championship for certain teams would not mean an immediate exit from the Championship. In the 1997 championship the first major change in format arrived when the 'back-door system' was introduced. This new structure allowed the defeated Munster and Leinster finalists another chance to regain a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Tipperary and Kilkenny were the first two teams to benefit from the new system when they defeated Down and Galway respectively in the quarter-finals. The All-Ireland final in the first year of this new experiment was a replay of the Munster final with Clare defeating Tipperary. The first team to win the All-Ireland through the 'back-door' was Offaly in 1998, winning a replay of the Leinster final by beating Kilkenny 2-16 to 1-13.

The new 'back-door system' proved successful and was expanded over the following years. The 2005 Championship saw even bigger changes in the 'back-door' or qualifier system. Now the Munster and Leinster champions and defeated finalists automatically qualify for the new quarter-final stages. While two groups of four other teams play in a league format to fill the vacant four places in the quarter-finals. Many have criticised the new structure for not being a real championship at all, for degrading the Munster and Leinster championships and for penalising the strongest teams. The new qualifier structure, however, has provided more games and has given hope to the 'weaker' teams, as a defeat in the first round no longer means the end of a county's All-Ireland ambitions.


The county is a geographical region in Ireland, and each of the thirty-two counties in Ireland organises its own GAA affairs through a County Board. The county teams play in their respective Provincial championships in Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster.


The GAA senior hurling championship qualifying structure works as follows:

Counties Participating:Twelve Counties shall participate in the Championship (initially the Counties participating in Division 1 of the National Hurling League). Additional provision shall be made for the Ulster Champions, if not already included.

Provincial Championships:Provincial Championships will run as normal in Munster, Leinster and Ulster on a 'Knock Out' format.

All Ireland Qualifier:The 8 Counties participating shall be the First Round Losers in the Leinster and Munster Championships (two Teams), the Losing Semi-Finalists in the Leinster and Munster Championships (four Teams), Galway, and Antrim.

Groups (2):Two Groups of four Teams shall be drawn, with a maximum of two Teams from Munster and Leinster in each Group. Each County in a Group shall meet each other i.e. each Team shall play three games.

All Ireland Quarter Finals (4):The Pairings for the All Ireland Quarter-Finals shall be as follows:
  • Leinster Kilkenny v Second Placed Team in one Qualifier Group.
  • Munster Tipperary v Second Placed Team in the other Qualifier Group.
  • Leinster Dublin v First Placed Team in One Qualifier Group.
  • Munster Championship Runners Up v First Placed Team in the other Qualifier Group.

A Draw shall be made to determine who each of the 'First Placed' Teams and each of the 'Second Placed' Teams shall meet.

All Ireland Semi-Finals:The Leinster and Munster Provincial Champions, if still involved, shall be drawn against the other two Quarter Final Winners. If the Leinster and/or Munster Provincial Champions are defeated in the Quarter Finals, the Team(s) that defeated them shall take their position(s) in the Draw.


The format of the 2008 championship will be as follows:

12 counties will participate in Tier 1 of the 2008 Championship. These teams will be as follows:

Provincial Championships

The Leinster, Munster and Ulster championships will be played as usual. The Leinster and Munster champions will advance directly to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

All-Ireland Qualifiers

Phase 1: (1 match) This will be a single match between Antrim and Galway.

Phase 2: (2 matches) The winner of the phase 1 game will play the team eliminated in the first round of the Leinster Championship. The loser of the phase 1 game will play the team eliminated in the first round of the Munster Championship.

Phase 3: (2 matches) This phase will comprise of the beaten provincial semi-finalists in Leinster and Munster who will play two knock-out games. Teams from the same province cannot meet in these games.

Phase 4: (2 matches) The winners from phase 2 will play the winners from phase 3 in a knock-out format.

All-Ireland Series

Quarter-finals: (2 matches) The defeated Munster and Leinster finalists will play the winners of the qualifier phase 4 games.

Semi-finals: (2 matches) The Munster and Leinster champions will play the winners of the quarter-finals.


The losing teams from the qualifier phase 2 games shall play-off. The loser of this game is relegated to the Christy Ring Cup, to be replaced in the following year's championship by the Christy Ring Cup winners.


Since 1995, the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship has been sponsored. The sponsor has usually been able to determine the championship's sponsorship name. The list below details who the sponsors have been and what they called the competition:

Recent history

All-Ireland Hurling Finals

Top Winners

Kilkenny have won the All-Ireland Hurling Championship the most times - thirty-two titles as of 2009. Kilkenny have been runner-up more often than any other team (24 times). Two teams have won the Championship on four consecutive occasions Cork (1941-44) and Kilkenny (2006-09). Only three teams have won the McCarthy Cup on three consecutive occasions - Cork (1892-94, 1941-44 (4 times)), 1952-54 & 1976-78), Tipperary (1898-1900, 1949-51) and Kilkenny (1911 - 13, 2006-09 (4 times)). Kilkenny, Galway(1987-1988) and Wexford have all achieved the "double" by winning back-to-back titles over the years. Antrim hold the unfortunate record of appearing in two All-Ireland Finals (1943 and 1989) without ever winning the cup.

The following is a list of the top county teams by number of wins

Team Winner Last win Runner-up Last losing final
1 Kilkenny 32 2009 24 2004
2 Cork 30 2005 18 2006
3 Tipperary 25 2001 10 2009
4 Limerick 7 1973 8 2007
5 Dublin 6 1938 14 1961
5 Wexford 6 1996 11 1977
7 Galway 4 1988 17 2005
7 Offaly 4 1998 3 2000
9 Clare 3 1997 4 2002
10 Waterford 2 1959 4 2008
11 London 1 1901 3 1903
11 Laois 1 1915 2 1949
11 Kerry 1 1891 0 -
14 Antrim 0 - 2 1989

The top provinces by number of wins:

Province Wins Last Win Biggest Contributor Wins
1 Munster 68 2005 Cork 30
2 Leinster 50 2009 Kilkenny 32
3 Connacht 4 1988 Galway 4
4 Ulster 0 - - -

The following counties have never won an All Ireland:
Province County
Ulster Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Tyrone
Leinster Carlow, Kildare, Longford, Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Wicklow
Connacht Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo

Scoring records

(Championship scores only)

All-time top scorers in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship

Rank Player Team Scores Games Era Average
1 Eddie Keher Kilkenny 35-334 (439pts) 50 games 1959-1977 8.8
2 Henry Shefflin Kilkenny 22-369 (435pts) 48 games 1999-present 9.1
3 Eoin Kelly Tipperary 14-283 (325pts) 43 games 2000-present 7.5
4 Christy Ring Cork 33-208 (305pts) 64 games 1940-1963 4.8
5 D.J. Carey Kilkenny 34-195 (297pts) 57 games 1989-2005 5.2
6 Nicky Rackard Wexford 59-96 (273pts) 36 games 1940-1957 7.6
7 Paul Flynn Waterford 24-181 (253pts) 46 games 1993-2008 5.5
8 Joe Deane Cork 3-234 (243pts) 48 games 1996-2008 5.1
9 Charlie McCarthy Cork 28-153 (237pts) 45 games 1965-1980 5.3
10 Jimmy Doyle Tipperary 18-176 (230pts) 39 games 1958-1973 5.9
11 Jim Langton Kilkenny 16-159 (207pts) 27 games 1938-1954 7.4
12 James Young Laois 7-180 (201pts) 27 games 1997-present 7.2
As of 24 September, 2008 (Bold denotes players still in the Championship) ,
Average score shows score in points per Championship game

Eddie Keher of Kilkenny holds numerous championship scoring records. In 50 championship appearances between 1959 and 1977 he scored 35 goals and 334points. Not only that but Keher also set and broke a number of individual records. In the 1963 All-Ireland final he scored 14 points, a verifiable record for a final up to that point. In 1971 Keher broke his own record when he captured 2 goals and 11 points in the All-Ireland final against Tipperary. What is more remarkable is the fact that he ended up on the losing side on that occasion. This record was broken by Nicky English in 1989 when he scored 2 goals and 12 points in a 70-minute All-Ireland final. Keher's tally of 6 goals and 45 points in the 1972 championship is also a record.

Nicky Rackard of Wexford got the highest confirmed total in a major championship game. In Wexford's 12-17 to 2-3 defeat of Antrim in the 1954 All-Ireland semi-final he scored a remarkable 7 goals and 7 points. His tally of 6 goals and 4 points against Dublin is also a scoring record. Rackard also scored 5 goals and 4 points against Galway in the 1956 All-Ireland semi-final.

Prior to the 1930s scoring records for championship games were rarely kept. A number of players have been credited with enormous tallies. Andy 'Dooric' Buckley scored at least 6 goals when Cork beat Kilkenny by 8-9 to 0-8 in the 1903 All-Ireland 'home' final. Other newspaper reports credit him with 7 goals and 4 points.

P.J. Riordan is alleged to have scored all but 1 point of Tipperary's total when they beat Kilkenny by 6-8 to 0-1 in the 1895 All-Ireland final.

Jimmy Kelly of Kilkenny is said to have scored 7 goals in 30 minutes against Cork in the replay of the 1905 final.

Notable teams

Notable Hurling Championship Moments

  • At the third meeting of the newly-founded Gaelic Athletic Association in 1885 new rules for the game of hurling are drawn up and published in national newspapers.
  • The first All-Ireland Hurling Championship takes place in 1887 with only five teams participating. The Final isn't played until the start of the new season in 1888 when Tipperary defeat Galway with a score of 1-1 to 0-0.
  • In the 1900 All-Ireland Final Tipperary score two goals in the last six minutes to snatch victory from London in the dying seconds of the game.
  • In the 1922 All-Ireland Final Kilkenny were three points down with three minutes to go when Paddy Donoghue and Dick Tobin scored two goals. Tipperary later missed the chance of an equalising goal resulting in victory for the men in black and amber.
  • In 1924 Mick Gill creates history by winning two All-Ireland Senior Hurling medals in the same year and for different counties. In September he played on the Galway side which beat Limerick in the delayed 1923 final. In the actual 1924 final he played on the victorious Dublin team.
  • The All-Ireland Final of 1931 between Cork and Kilkenny had to be played no less than three times before a team emerged as the winner. On the second replay Cork emerged victorious.
  • In 1937 a builders' strike holds up progress on the new stand at Croke Parkmarker, forcing a switch in venue for the All-Ireland Final to FitzGerald Stadiummarker in Killarneymarker where Tipperary defeat Kilkenny.
  • The 1939 All-Ireland Final is remembered as the "thunder and lightning" final. On the eve of the outbreak of World War II Cork and Kilkenny played the first half of the game at a frantic pace. The climax of the final was played in a ferocious storm with victory eventually going to Kilkenny.
  • In 1944 Cork pull off an historic achievement by winning their fourth All-Ireland title in a row. During the 1940s, the Cork team, which featured Christy Ring and Jack Lynch, played in six of the ten All-Ireland finals of the decade, with victory going to the Leesiders on five occasions.
  • The All-Ireland Final of 1956 draws a record crowd of 83,096. In the game itself Wexford defeat Cork by 2-14 to 2-8.
  • In 1959 Kilkenny forward Eddie Keher plays for "the Cats" in the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final. A few weeks later he comes on as a substitute in the Senior final replay against Waterford.
  • The All-Ireland Final of 1970 sees the extension of the game to 80 minutes. Cork defeat Wexford with a massive score of 6-21 to 5-10, with Cork's Eddie O'Brien scoring a hat-trick. It is the only time that a player has scored three goals in the modern era.
  • In the final stages of an intense All-Ireland Final in 1971, Tipperary-player Babs Keating removes his playing boots and finishes the match in his bare feet. He passes the sliothar into one of his team mates who creates a winning score. "Barefoot Babs" and Tipperary went on to clinch victory from Kilkenny.
  • In the 1984 Munster hurling final, Tipperary are leading by four points with four minutes remaining when Tony O'Sullivan and Seanie O'Leary score two goals and snatch victory for Cork.
  • In the Gaelic Athletic Association's Centenary year of 1984, the All-Ireland Hurling Final is played in the town where the organisation was founded. At Semple Stadiummarker in Thurlesmarker, Cork overcome Offaly by 3-16 to 1-12.
  • Tipperary end their 16 year famine without a Munster Senior Hurling Title against Cork in a great Munster final replay in Killarney.
  • Tipperary then win the 1989 All Ireland final against Antrim, in which Nicky English scores 2-12 to be the player who has scored the most in an All Ireland final
  • The replayed Munster final of 1991, considered to be one of the greatest Munster finals of all time, in which Tipperary beat Cork 4-19 to 4-15
  • The All-Ireland Final of 1993 is the last game to be played in the old Croke Parkmarker before the demolition of the Cusack Stand and the beginning of a multi-million pound redevelopment of the entire stadium.
  • The All-Ireland Final of 1994 has come to be remembered as the "five minute final." Limerick looked set to win their first All-Ireland title since 1973 until Offaly stage one of the greatest comebacks of all time, scoring two goals and most of their points in the last few minutes. They defeat Limerick by 3-16 to 2-13.
  • The Championship of 1997 sees the introduction of the so-called "back-door" system where the beaten Munster and Leinster finalists are allowed back to contest the All-Ireland series. Kilkenny and Tipperary are the first counties to benefit from the new format. Tipperary and Clare contest the first, and to date, only all Munster final under the new structure.
  • In the All-Ireland Semi-Final replay of 1998 between Clare and Offaly, referee Jimmy Cooney blows the whistle two minutes early. Offaly's players and supporters launch a sit-down protest on the pitch due to the fact that they were losing when the whistle was blown early. An extra replay was forced to be played, which Offaly won.
  • In 2003 a bookmaking firm exploits a loop-hole in the Gaelic Athletic Association's Official Code and sponsors the hurleys of three players in an All-Ireland Semi-Final clash between Cork and Wexford. The rule is later amended to prevent any repeat of the incident.
  • In 2004, in what many believe to be one of the greatest Munster hurling final of all time, Waterford defeated Cork in front of a packed attendance in Semple Stadiummarker, Thurlesmarker. With Waterford down to 14 men following the dismissal of John Mullane, Paul Flynn scored a wondergoal from 40 metres out when many expected him to go for a point. Waterford went on to win the game by one point, 3-16 to 1-21.
  • In the 2004 Leinster semi-Final, Wexford trail Kilkenny by 1 point with seconds to go. A block down on a Kilkenny clearance leads the ball to the hand of Wexford's Michael Jacob who scores a winning goal with the last puck of the ball, despite suspicion of a Wexford forward being illegally in the small parallelogram - the area around the goalmouth that attacking players are not allowed enter before the ball enters the area.
  • The All-Ireland Final on September 11, 2005 was the first to be played at the fully refurbished Croke Parkmarker. The Cusack Stand, the Canal Stand, the Hogan Stand and the new Hill 16 and Nally End all have a combined capacity of 82,300. Unfortunately this capacity was not met due to ticketing errors in the GAA.
  • The All-Ireland Final on September 6, 2009 saw Kilkenny win a fourth All-Ireland senior hurling final in a row.

Championship tiers, 2009

Tier 1: Liam McCarthy Cup

GAA county Province Provincial championships
Antrim Ulster Leinster and Ulster
Clare Munster Munster
Cork Munster Munster
Dublin Leinster Leinster
Galway Connacht Leinster and Connacht
Kilkenny Leinster Leinster
Laois Leinster Leinster
Limerick Munster Munster
Offaly Leinster Leinster
Tipperary Munster Munster
Waterford Munster Munster
Wexford Leinster Leinster
Carlow Leinster Leinster

Tier 2: Christy Ring Cup

Tier 3: Nicky Rackard Cup

Tier 4: Lory Meagher Cup

External links

See also

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