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Everything you need to know about the Joe McDonagh Cup

This weekend will mark the beginning of the Joe McDonagh Cup, a new competition being played for the first time this year. Here is the low down on everything you need to know about!

There are a number of changes happening to the format and structure of the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship this year.

One of them will be the introduction of the Joe McDonagh Cup for the first time. Here is everything you need to know!

10 June 2017; Players from Antrim and Carlow contest possession during the Christy Ring Cup Final match between Antrim and Carlow at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

So what is the Joe McDonagh Cup?

The Joe McDonagh Cup is a competition that will have six teams compete in a second tier Hurling Competition. It is named after the great Galway hurler Joe McDonagh, who passed away from illness in 2016.

It will be played on a round-robin structure and like League games, a system of promotion and relegation will take place in the Joe McDonagh Cup.

The winners of the Joe McDonagh Cup will take on the 3rd placed team in the Leinster Championship at the Preliminary Quarter Final stages.

The runners-up of the Joe McDonagh Cup will play the 3rd place team in the Munster Championship, also at the Preliminary Quarter Final stages.

The winners of these matches progress to the Quarter Finals, where they will meet the teams that lost out in the Provincial Finals.

A little confusing? We feel you!


But what does that mean?

So this effectively means that two teams competing in a second-tier competition, get the chance to play in an All Ireland Quarter Final, opening the door for them to progress to the Semi Final and then possibly the Final of the Championship.

Likewise, those teams from the Munster and Leinster Championships, that finished at the bottom of the table after the round robin stages are relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup next year.

So who is competing in the Joe McDonagh Cup?


There will six teams competing in the Joe McDonagh Cup. Here’s a look at each of the teams.



Antrim will feel in good shape going into the Joe McDonagh Cup. Although they were relegated in the League after losing to Laois, they still secured a good win over Offaly.

Neil McManus is their star man, and under the guidance of Terence McNaughton and Dominic McKinley for the third season, the northern men will hope that their chances of gaining promotion to the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship are strong.


There is currently a feel-good factor across Carlow as their hurlers and footballers continue to succeed.

Carlow won Division 2A of the League and stand a very strong chance of getting to the preliminary Quarter Final stages.

It is Colm Bonnar‘s second year in charge, and watch out for the skill of James Doyle, who scored four points in last year’s Christy Ring Cup Final.


In the League of 2017, Kerry were relegated from Division 1B. This year in the League, they hoped to make it back there, but they finished behind Carlow and Westmeath in Division 2A.

The Kingdom will rely on the likes of Shane Nolan in attack to secure them wins against other teams in the Joe McDonagh Cup.


During this year’s League, Meath won five of their games.

They came close to winds against teams like Westmeath and Carlow, which will be a good confidence boost for them.

They avoided relegation and the appointment of Nick Fitzgerald as manager, and two Kilkenny greats, Martin Comerford and Mick Kavanagh to the background team, has been a good choice.

They will be underdogs in the Joe McDonagh Cup, but don’t overlook the Royals as they may surprise you.


Laois survived a regulation play off of Division 1B against Antrim in this year’s League. During the League, they came up against teams like Galway and Dublin.

This experience will surely help them as they enter the Joe McDonagh Cup, and hope to make it to the knockout stages of the Liam McCarthy Cup. 


Westmeath defeated Carlow in the first round of Division 2A of the League, so when the two sides met again in the promotion Final, Westmeath would have been confident. However, Carlow defeated them by seven points.

Westmeath still won five out of six matches in the League so they will be quietly hopeful going into the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Last year, in Round 1 of the All Ireland Qualifier’s Westmeath had a stellar performance against the All Ireland Champions at the time, Tipperary. If they play to their potential, they could be contenders to qualify for the Preliminary Quarter Finals.


This weekend will see the beginning of the Joe McDonagh Cup. You can see all the fixtures for the summer ahead here!


Littlewoods Ireland are proud sponsors of the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Keep yourself up to date with all the #StyleOfPlay action right here


Ellen McConville

Typically found on the sidelines or in Croke Park, Ellen is the Sports Content Editor for Littlewoods Ireland and your go-to gal for all things GAA. A big lover of all things Christy Moore, fashion and some wine and cheese as well.

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