The All-Ireland Junior Hurling Champtionship
In the early days of the G.A.A. there was only one grade in hurling. Gradually, with the increasing popularity of the game and the growing number of players, it became apparent that a grade other than senior was necessary. Dublin became the first county to establish a junior competition. A junior league was formed in the county in 1901 and so successful was it that a decision was taken to set up a minor competition also.
Limerick has the distinction of organising the first county junior championship. A junior board was formed at the county convention on February 28, 1901 and, as well as establishing a junior championship, it also inaugurated the first juvenile competition. The next step was the organisation of inter-county games and the first such games, in junior and minor grades, were contested by Limerick and Dublin and took place at the Thatch Grounds, Drumcondra on August 14 1904.
The first national recognition of the junior grade was at the annual convention or congress of the Association at Thurles at the end of 1903. At the adjourned convention on December 13, on the proposition of A. Murphy (Dublin), it was decided to establish a junior All-Ireland championship in hurling, the teams to consist of players who had not played hurling in a senior county championship, provincial championship or an All-Ireland championship since the year 1901. It was to be nine years before the decision was implemented.
The first province to make a start was Leinster, where a provincial championship commenced in 1905. The first winners were Kildare. Munster followed suit in 1910 when Tipperary took the first title. Ulster participated in 1913. Congress in that year graded Ulster counties junior for hurling and Antrim won the first provincial championship. They were beaten by Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final. Connacht also fell into line in 1913 and Galway contested their first All-Ireland final in 1924, going down to Tipperary.
The first All-Ireland junior hurling final was played at Jones' Road on February 23 1913. It was the final of the 1912 championship. The finalists were Cork and Westmeath and the Munster champions became the first winners of the competition by 3-6 to 2-1. The successful Cork side was: C. Hallahan (capt.), J. Long, J. Hallahan (Ballincollig), W. Finn, D. Aherne (Cobh), P. Prior, J. Murphy, W. Lombard (Douglas), S. Salmon, J. O'Brien (Emmets), T. O'Riordan, J. Cahill (Blackrock), J. McDonnell (Emmets), P. Singleton (Kanturk), W. Fitzgerald (Collegians), P. Vaughan (Blackrock), C. O'Connell (Sunday's Well).
Between 1912 and 1995 the championship was played on seventy-four occasions. It was suspended during the periods 1917-22 and 1942-45. During the period 1961-73 the championship was run in conjunction with the National League Division 3 and a limited number of counties competed. The counties which opted out took part in a new intermediate championship. The original format was restored in 1983. An important decision was taken in the 1927 Congress which was to permit teams from Britain to participate.
Twenty-one counties have won the All-Ireland junior hurling championship. Six more, Carlow, Laois, Longford, Antrim, Monaghan and Fermanagh, have unsuccessfully contested finals. Only five counties, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan and Tyrone, have failed to reach a final. As well, two English counties, London and Warwickshire, have won the championship. Two other English counties, Lancashire and Hertfordshire, have contested finals without success. This success and participation rate compares more than favourably with the senior hurling championship in which only twelve counties, plus London, were successful and one, Antrim, unsuccessful.
Munster J.H. Final Program, Cashel, June 25, 1996