The 2022 Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge competition was formally on Friday 29th April at the GAA National Games Development Centre (NGDC) at Abbotstown in Dublin, with Uachtarán CLG Larry McCarthy in attendance to celebrate an event that has become a crucial part of the GAA’s Player Pathway for all 32 counties.
“The Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge has expanded hurling in areas where hurling traditionally wouldn’t have been strong. It has given players the opportunity to play at a grade at which they will be successful, and as a consequence, enjoy it” said Uachtarán McCarthy today.
“As a county trying to work your way up the ladder, you’re not out there, isolated on your own with other counties that are facing the same challenges. Strong counties are participating through regional teams, so that gives it gravitas and cache. A lad can go out and play a Kilkenny team or a North Galway team, that’s different from playing against traditional rivals who don’t have the same reputation.
“It feeds into our player pathway. It brings lads along, and the natural progression after playing Celtic Challenge is to think where can we go after this. You mightn’t go straight to the Kilkenny and Tipperary level all of a sudden, but you’re progressing and everybody can see that progress”.
24 quarter-finals across six divisions took place across Ireland on Saturday May 7th, with the action continuing for the remainder of the month as the various teams compete for All-Ireland honours. Each team has already played three group games, and Ciaran Kearney, National Development Competitions Coordinator, spoke of how counties at all levels are taking advantage of the unique opportunity the Celtic Challenge programme affords in the area of player development.
“Cork put four teams into this year’s competition, which is understandable because they have the playing population” he said.
“For me a bigger success story is Kildare, Meath and Wicklow putting out multiple teams. The Celtic Challenge provides that opportunity to keep the funnel wide up to a higher age, to increase the number of players that are taking additional steps along the player pathway”.
“Antrim played Down recently in Joe McDonagh Cup, there were maybe half a dozen Antrim players that came through the Celtic Challenge and eight or nine from the Down team. It’s the same in counties at Ring, Rackard and Meaghar Cup level, but also at the top tier where Tiernan Killeen is the perfect example of someone who used the Celtic Challenge to put himself in the shop window. He earned his place on the Galway minor team where he won two All-Ireland medals, and now he’s getting on the field in the Leinster senior championship” he continued.
“It's a competition for all counties. The standards are different across the board, but the model is something that fits everybody’s needs.
“Having Electric Ireland as the sponsors is a huge boost as well, because it ties in with their support for the GAA All-Ireland Minor Championships, and thus increases the profile of the Celtic Challenge in the eyes of players and supporters all across the country”.
Sarah Sharkey, Brand, PR and Sponsorship Manager at Electric Ireland said:
“Electric Ireland is thrilled to have come on board as the title sponsor of the Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge Cup for the next five years. The Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge showcases some of the best young hurlers across Ireland and we, at Electric Ireland, are excited to see how these competitions play out over the coming months. Electric Ireland is passionate about supporting youth and the development of young GAA players and earlier this month, we were delighted to announce a five-year extension to our sponsorship of the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Championships and the Electric Ireland Higher Education GAA Leagues and Championships.”