It’s over three months later than usual but never in the history of the Allianz Hurling League has the start been more eagerly awaited. It marks the return of inter-county action for the first time since last December.
The long wait for players and supporters will end this weekend when the 2021 action gets underway, with eleven games across the top two divisions. Due to travel restrictions London, Lancashire and Warwickshire will not be competing this year.
This will be the 29th season that Allianz are aboard as sponsors of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest sponsorships in Irish sport. In addition, Allianz is also a longstanding sponsor of schools Gaelic Games through their sponsorship of Allianz Cumann na mBunscol.
The Division 1, 2 and 3B programmes run from next weekend (May 8/9) to June 12/13 while Division 3A runs from May 16 to June 19.
Five rounds will be played in Division 1 Group A and B. The top teams in each group will be deemed joint-winners unless they meet in the Championship, in which case the game will double up as the Allianz League final. That happened last year when Limerick won the title by beating Clare in what was also the Munster Championship quarter-final.
The bottom two teams after the five rounds in Groups A and B will meet in a relegation play-off, with the losers dropping into Division 2. They will be replaced by the top team in 2A. There will be no finals in Divisions 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B. The winners will be crowned champions while the bottom team in 2A, 2B and 3A will be relegated.
CEO of Allianz Ireland, Seán McGrath said: “Allianz has been supporting the GAA and the Allianz Leagues for close to three decades now. We have faced some of the greatest challenges ever over the last 12 months but the return of inter-county sport and the Allianz Leagues is an exciting milestone on the road to brighter times.
The GAA have shown great leadership and resolve in their stewardship of our national games and our long standing partnership is stronger than ever. I look forward to a season of exhilarating inter county action for the people of Ireland that has been long awaited.”
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, Larry McCarthy said: “The return of the Allianz Hurling League this year marks a special moment for the GAA community as our attention can once again turn to the action on the field.
As we enter the 29th year of our partnership with Allianz, it is a testament to Allianz’ commitment to Gaelic Games to see how these competitions have grown and evolved in terms of popularity and excitement.
“We look forward with great anticipation to the opening of the 2021 season and what promises to be a great terrific year ahead.”
Limerick will be bidding for their third successive Division 1 Allianz League title, something they last achieved in 1936. Kilkenny were the last county to win the treble (2012-13-14).
Limerick open their campaign in a glamour clash with Tipperary in the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday. It’s the top attraction for the opening weekend, pitting the 2020/2018 All-Ireland champions (Limerick) against the 2019 winners (Tipperary).
Limerick beat Tipperary in both last year’s Allianz League and Championship, winning the League game by two points and the Munster semi-final by nine points.
Clare, last year’s Allianz League runners-up, will begin their programme with a trip to Corrigan Park, Belfast to play Antrim on Sunday.
Next weekend’s Round 1 fixtures are as follows:
Division 1: Group A: Westmeath v Galway, TEG Cusack Park, 2.0; Limerick v Tipperary, LIT Gaelic Grounds5.30;
Division 1: Group B: Dublin v Kilkenny, Parnell Park 3.30
Division 1: Group A: Cork v Waterford, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 3.45
Division 1: Group B: Antrim v Clare, Corrigan Park 1.0; Wexford v Laois, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 1.45.
Division 2A: Kerry v Down, Tralee, 1.0; Meath v Offaly, Pairc Tailteann, 2.0; Carlow v Wicklow, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2.0
Division 2B: Donegal v Roscommon, Letterkenny, 2.0; Mayo v Derry, Elverys MacHale Park, 3.0