Carlow’s Netwatch Cullen Park to host division finals of 2017 Celtic Challenge

After a very successful first year, the Celtic Challenge returns for the second year with a new title sponsor – Bank of Ireland. The Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge is a national hurling development competition that celebrates mass participation and includes several exciting new initiatives in the game.

The competition, which is targeted at 16 and 17 year-old hurlers who are not sitting State Examinations this summer, will commence in May and conclude in June 2017.  A total of 47 teams from all 32 counties will take part across eight groups – that are determined on a geographical and developmental basis – and feature county as well as regional teams.

There will be 1,400 players involved in a programme of 155 matches that take place over eight weeks starting on May 3rd.   Details of the competition and the new sponsors Bank of Ireland were unveiled at Croke Park earlier today by Uachtarán Aogán Ó Fearghail and Paudie O’Neill, Chairperson of the Hurling Development Committee.

In total there will be 21 county teams and 26 sides that represent regions from within counties such as West Waterford and Cork City.

After an initial round robin group phase of matches, teams will be graded on their performance and will then be assigned to one of six divisions for the preliminaries and the play-offs where again they will compete against teams of a similar level of ability.

The six divisional finals will be played on Saturday, June 24th at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow.

The cups have been named after six of the victims from among the 14 people shot and killed on Bloody Sunday at Croke Park on November 21st, 1920. The cups have been dedicated to the memory of Michael Hogan (age 24), John William Scott (age 14), William Robinson (age 11), Jerome O’Leary (age 10), Michael Feery (aged 40) and Tom Hogan (aged 21). The trophies and medals have been kindly sponsored by the Past Hurlers’ Association.

Apart from the teams that reach the Finals, all players will be provided with a bespoke Celtic Challenge jersey as a memento of the competition. The jerseys have been designed exclusively for each of the 47 teams and are sponsored by O’Neill’s House of Sport.

The Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge will provide players with a programme of pre-scheduled and meaningful games. In addition to this, the competition features a number of initiatives that are unique to the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge.

A feature of the competition will be for referees and match officials to meet with the teams prior to the game.

There will also be a ‘Best and Fairest Award’ that will see referees after every match choose one player from each team selected on the basis of their skill level as well as the respect they showed to the playing rules, match officials and their fellow players.

An interchange policy will be used instead of permanent substitutes which ensures every player on a squad can be involved in a game.

An innovative scoring system will be in operation for the group stages that will award a bonus point for a team that scores two or more goals, while also awarding a losing bonus point for a defeated team that loses by a margin of five points or less.

47 teams will compete in the Celtic Challenge this year with one team from Carlow and two from Kilkenny (Kilkenny Black and Kilkenny Amber) taking part.