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