Not since the days of Guinness advertising with hurlers as giants growing out of the ground has the All Ireland Championship been promoted as being so much part of the land of Ireland.
Yesterday’s launch of the final stages, from the quarter finals on, of the Football and Hurling Championship, took place against the ruddy and majestic background of Inis Mór in the Aran Islands, a good 300 kilometres from the more regular surrounds of Croke Park.
GAA President John Horan made the trip as did a group of players, members of the media and a number of the Championship sponsors.
He reiterated the fact that their would be a review of all aspects of the new Championship format this year, in technical terms of how things have played out and used his background in education to describe the first year as like getting a new text book and it looking all nice and shiny but only finding out how good it really was by using it through the first year.
The focus of the review will doubtless be on Dublin and Croke Park as a venue, though it may also be useful to consider a minimum capacity for grounds so as to avoid the challenge of so many Kildare fans missing out on what was one of their county’s greatest wins of recent years by St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge being just too small for a game of such significance as the Mayo clash.
That would clearly put the onus back on County Boards to invest as much in facilities as they do in teams.
Those debates are for later in the year though, yesterday the focus was on what lies before us, illustrated by the great photography captured by Brendan Moran and Diarmaid Greene of Sportsfile and published across most of the media today.
The GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship is down to six teams with Kilkenny, Limerick, Wexford and Clare in a tussle this weekend to join Galway and Cork.
In football, the eagerly awaited inaugural new quarter final format, colloqially known as the Super 8’s gets under way this weekend at Croke Park with Kerry, Galway, Monaghan and Kildare are in group one with Dublin, Donegal, Roscommon and Tyrone in group two.
“The 2018 Championship summer has already given us so many highlights and there’s a real buzz of excitement about what’s to come in the next few weeks,” said Horan.
“The Provincial Hurling Championships were outstanding and there was a real edge to the Football campaign as teams wanted to take their place in the new quarter final format.
“There’s a lot of people who play an important part in the GAA Championship summer from supporters, to match officials, to grounds staff, to sponsors, to media – but above all I want to salute our players who continue to be such outstanding ambassadors for our great games.”
“I’ve no doubt that the race to the All-Ireland finals will be something to savour.”
Matches in July will determine the Semi-Final pairings, before the All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals take place on August 19 and September 2 respectively.
GAA Football All-Ireland Championship Dates
Quarter-Finals Phase 1
July 14 2018
Group 2: Roscommon v Tyrone (5pm), Dublin v Donegal, 7pm (both Croke Park)
July 15 2018
Group 1: Kildare v Monaghan (2pm), Galway v Kerry, 4pm (Both Croke Park)
Quarter-Finals Phase 2
July 21/22 2018
Group 1:Kildare v Galway; Monaghan v Kerry;
Group 2:Tyrone v Dublin; Roscommon v Donegal.
Quarter-Finals Phase 3
August 4/5 2018
Group 1: Kerry v Kildare; Galway v Monaghan.
Group 2: Donegal v Tyrone; Dublin v Roscommon.
Semi-Final 1, Croke Park.
Semi-Final 2, Croke Park.
September 2, Croke Park.
GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship Dates
Clare v Wexford, 3pm Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Kilkenny v Limerick, 2pm Semple Stadium.
July 28– Semi-Final 1, Croke Park.
July 29 – Semi-Final 2, Croke Park.
AUGUST 19, Croke Park.