In Nowlan park on Sunday at 1.45pm Piltown and St. Patrick’s, Ballyraggett sides match up for an intriguing final, each with strong claims for victory having come through the knock-out stages of this inaugural All- County Junior Hurling Championship with convincing wins —– St. Pat’s accounted for Bennettsbridge, Thomastown & O’Loughlin Gaels in very impressive displays beating their opponents by comfortable margins—— Piltown overcame Windgap after a tough battle in their first game and then went on to have comfortable wins, similar to their opponents, over Slieverue & Lisdowney. Each team has a very good set of match winning forwards, given a decent supply of ball. Difficult to call as these northern & southern champions of 2011 go in search of intermediate status and further glory in Leinster and perhaps further afield. A draw, like 2003 when these clubs last met, might be on the cards. Whichever way it goes it promises to be game well worth seeing.
The general response to this new All-County Junior Hurling Championship format, put forward by Paul Long & the Kilmacow Club, has been extremely positive. The clubs, together with the two divisional boards, gave it every support. Clubs, themselves, have produced excellent programmes for the league rounds, notably Piltown, Windgap, Thomastown & Lisdowney . We had teams from extreme ends of the county clashing for the very first time and there was a great sense of occasion created by some of these host clubs as they entertained their opponents in the league section of the championship. In many respects it was a celebration of junior hurling. Throw in a further competitive edge with relegation looming for one team at the end of the season and the dynamics of the championship looked very good. Many of the older players have expressed regret that this format wasn’t in place many years ago.
It has imposed a badly needed order on the junior set up—-22 teams divided into 4 groups—one division has 6 & 6 in the two groups of junior teams only; the other has 5&5 in the two groups for junior teams which are the no. 2 teams in their clubs. The two divisions are kept apart until the semi-final stages. In this way the junior teams only will not meet teams comprised of junior and senior or intermediate players and the junior teams, from clubs with senior & intermediate players, have a guaranteed quarter-final spot. All teams meet each other in the All-County Junior League & Northern and Southern Junior championships. It is a brilliant formula for the successful development of junior hurling. Long may it continue to get the support it deserves.