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10 Details Which Remind Us Of The Greatness Of The U21 Hurling Championship

By Balls Team
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Casual punters might have been inclined to forget that U21 championship action proceeded last night. They would be inclined to skate past the fact that Westmeath were playing Kilkenny last night. Ears only started perking up when word came through a something massive was happening.

Jazziest looking trophy

On our poll to find the sexiest looking trophies in sport, the Cross of Cashel finished in eleventh place out of 24, ie. shamefully low down.

It looks like the type of thing Cuchulainn would have been handed as a reward for pucking the sliotar into that wolf's mouth.

The nostalgic format

As far as the U21 hurling championship goes, damn all has changed since the 80s.


While the senior championship has been tinkering more or less non-stops with various championship formats since 1997, the U21 boys haven't moved an inch.

Therefore, it remains a straight knockout played along ill-fitting provincial lines, just like it was at senior level during the heyday of Sylvie, Nicky and John Fenton.

Galway still play their first game in August.


More variety in the winners' enclosure

Glory be, a competition that Kilkenny do not win every year. Not only do they not win it every year but they haven't won it since 2008.

The nearly-men of modern senior hurling have tasted glory at U21 level. In the past 25 years, Waterford (1992), Limerick (4 times) and Galway (6 times) have got over the line.


Pitch invasions

The health and safety people up in Croke Park get very nervous about pitch invasions. There's no such tension following the U21 decider down in Thurles.


There are, of course, differing accounts about how players feel about getting their heads slapped off by a crowd of marauding teenagers.

Insurgents find it easier to make the step up at this grade


Very young readers may not still realise that the Dublin hurlers were irrelevant minnows at senior level up until the late noughties. They only started to make proper strides once Anthony Daly was appointed manager in 2009.

Two years before, while still whipping boys and unable to beat Wexford, they won the Leinster U21 championship, advancing to face Galway in the final.


Unfortunately, it was a rather strong Galway team - Joe Canning's crop - and the Dubs were badly beaten. Still, it was the beginning of something.



Irish language 

The GAA's television partners for all non-senior championship games, TG4 have the honour of showcasing the big U21 games. This helps to shut out the casual event snobs.

One is in the presence of the 'real' hurling fans.

Better speeches

Lee Chin commenced his 2014 Leinster Final winning speech with the only bit of Irish he knows. This kind of levity might not be appreciated at the end of an All-Ireland senior final.



It is now obligatory that the U21 championship final finishes under lights in Semple Stadium.


The U21 final lived a nomadic existence for most of its lifespan. Clare picked up their first U21 final in their recent flurry in Croke Park in 2009.

Starting with the following year, the GAA decreed that Thurles shall henceforth be the venue for the U21 All-Ireland final.

Much to the chagrin of Galway, by the way, who had to face a rampant Tipp, featuring a gang of senior champs, in the 2010 final.

Opinion is divided on Thurles. We've heard it labelled the most overrated ground in the world. However, it enjoys the status of a shrine to devotees of hurling.

Eye-popping shocks

Events like last night are extremely thin on the ground in the senior hurling championship. Kerry did once beat Waterford in the Munster hurling championship, but then Waterford were a ropey enough outfit in those years (1993). Occasionally a big team gets a fright against a minnow but still come through, a la Galway in Laois in 2014.

Read more: 'There's More Talent Here Than In Laois' - The Story Of How Westmeath Pulled Off A Major Shock





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