Defending Allianz Hurling League Division 1 champions Kilkenny have a special incentive to win this year’s competition, where another success would see them join Tipperary at the top of the honours’ list.
Tipperary, who last won the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 crown in 2008, have 19 titles and are one ahead of the Cats, who won their 18th last year. Half of Kilkenny’s honours have been won since 2002, including a treble in 2012-13-14 and doubles in 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Brian Cody’s men begin their title defence at home to Cork, who were last crowned Allianz Hurling League champions in 1998.
This will be the 27th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA through their sponsorship of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest sponsorships in Irish sport. It’s a very concentrated programme this year, running between next weekend and March 24, when the Division 1 final will be played.
CEO of Allianz Ireland, Seán McGrath said: “The Allianz Hurling League has served up some truly memorable occasions down through the years and I have no doubt the 2019 season will be just as entertaining and unpredictable as ever.”
As we prepare for another season of inevitable twists and turns on the field of play, I would like to commend our partners in the GAA on their professional management and tireless promotion of the Allianz Leagues and look forward to our 27th year in partnership.”
Uachtarán CLG, John Horan said:"It's not hard to understand the expectation that accompanies this year's Allianz Hurling Leagues given the year that was 2018.”
"Hope springs eternal across the divisions and in the coming weeks the contenders will emerge from the pack making a case for honours.”
"In this the 27th year of our partnership with Allianz, I would like to acknowledge their role in helping us to bolster the profile of competitions that have been more popular."
All-Ireland champions, Limerick, who last lifted the Division 1 crown in 1997, face a trip to Wexford, who haven’t won the Allianz Hurling League since 1973. The 1A programme starts under floodlights on Saturday night when Tipperary host Clare in Semple Stadium (7.0). Tipperary reached the last two finals, losing to Galway in 2017 and to Kilkenny in 2018.
Galway, Waterford and Dublin, all of whom have won the title in the last eight years, are the three big-hitters in 1B.