The Senior Hurling Championship
This year is the twentieth running of the senior hurling championship in its present format. It came into existence at the 1977 county convention after a successful motion from the Gortnahoe-Glengoole club. It was "that the county senior hurling championship be contested by the divisional champions and one other team from each division'. The motion received the statutory two-thirds majority required to abolish the open draw as convention voted by 148 votes to 52 in favour.
The open draw senior hurling championship came into being in the 1969 county convention as a result of a large majority in favour of a motion submitted jointly by Holycross and Moneygall and moved by Philip Ryan of the latter club. Arguments used in favour included one to raise the status of the county championship and to give clubs a chance to play outside their divisions. It was also expected it would improve the standard of hurling in the county.
There was criticism of the new system from the beginning. At the 1970 convention Tommy Barrett was none too happy with it. It was in the overall devoid of interest. There were too many bad games. There was a motion to abolish it but it failed to get the required two-thirds majority. Another attempt to change it in the 1972 convention failed to get the requisite two-thirds majority. Further attempts in 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976 all failed to get the necessary two-thirds.
Until 1959 the county championship consisted of the divisional winners contesting the semi-finals with the winners going forward to the county final. In 1960 the county board introduced a new system which included two teams coming forward from each division. Mid winners Thurles Sarsfields beat south losers, Carrick Swans. Mid losers, Holycross-Ballycahill beat west victors, Kickhams. North winners, Toomevara, beat west losers, Solohead and north losers, Kilruane-MacDonaghs, beat south winners, Marlfield.
A variation was introduced in 1961 because there had been a number of poor games the previous year - Sarsfields beat Carrick Swans 10-14 to 1-2, Toomevara beat Solohead 3-20 to 1-0 and Kilruane-MacDonaghs beat Marlfield by 8-8 to 1-4 - the number of quarter-finals was reduced to two. Under this system the north runners-up played the south champions and the mid runners-up played the west champions with the winners joining the north and mid champions in the semi-finals.
This system continued until 1966 when a motion to county convention increased the number of quarter-finals to four by bringing in two teams from the south and west as well as from the north and mid. This system continued until the introduction of the open draw in 1969.
Since the abolition of the open draw in 1977 divisional champions have gone on to win the county final on fourteen occasions. The first exception was in 1984 when the mid champions, Drom-Inch were knocked out by Lorrha in the semi-final. Lorrha were in turn defeated in the county final by mid runners-up, Moycarkey-Borris.
On the other four occasions when divisional champions failed to win the county final, the north league winners came through. The first time was in 1986 when Borris-lleigh, as league winners, beat championship runners-up Toomevara in the play-off. Of course Borris-lleigh went on to claim an All-Ireland club championship. In 1992 and 1993 Toomevara came through by virtue of being league winners. In the former year they beat Lorrha in the play-off and in the latter, Moneygall. Last year's winner, Nenagh, took the same route to county final honours when they beat north championship runners-up, Borris-lleigh, in the play-off.
Whether this is a good or a bad thing is a matter for debate. Some believe that county champions should be first and foremost, divisional champions. Others disagree and hold the county championship to be a separate competition that need not have any links with the divisions. However, since qualification for the county championship is through the divisional championships, there is a very definite connection. Perhaps it is time to rethink the system of running our county championship and go for radical change. The open draw was discredited because there were too many bad games and too many teams masquerading as senior. In the last year of the draw no less than thirty-three senior teams participated. If they all numbered senior players we should have had the strongest county senior panel in the country. But they didn't and we were very much in the doldrums, inter-county wise, at that period.
Maybe there is an opportunity of a revised open draw with sixteen teams or less. Who would decide could be left to a specialist committee. It ought to be possible to decide on some system of relegation and promotion each year. All first round games could be played on the last two weekends of June, the quarterfinals at the end of July, the semis at the end of August and the final on the fourth week in September. Of course the divisional championship would remain intact. What about it?
ROLL OF HONOUR
Thurles Sarsfields (28) - 1887, 1904, '06, '07, '08, '09, 1911, '29, '35, '36, '38, '39, '42, '44, '45, '46, '52, '55, '56, '57, '58, '59, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '74.
Moycarkey-Borris (14) - 1889, 1899, 1900, '01, '03, '05, '26, '32, '33, '34, '37, '40, '82, '84.
Tubberadora/Boherlahan-Dualla (13) -1895, '96, '98, 1915, 1916, '17, '18, '22, '24, '25, '27, '28, '41.
Toomevara (13) - 1890, 1910, '12, '13, '14, '19, '23, '30, '31, '60, '92, '93, '94.
Borris-lleigh (6) - 1949, '50, '53, '81, '83, '86.
Roscrea (6)-'68, '69, '70, '72, '73, '80.
Kilruane-McDonaghs (4) - 1977, '78, '79, '85.
Holycross-Ballycahill (4) - 1948, '51, '54, 1990.
Carrick Davins (2) - 1966, 1967.
Cappawhite (l)- 1987. Carrick Swans (1) 1947. Clonoulty (2)-1888, 1989. Drombane (1) - 1894. Lahorna De Wets (1) - 1902. Suir View (1)-1897. Moyne-Templetuohy (1) - 1971. Loughmore Castleiney (1) - 1988. Cashel King Cormacs (1) - 1991. Eire Og (Nenagh) (1) - 1995. Eire Og (Annacarty) (1) - 1943.
County Senior Hurling Final Program 1996