Goalkeeper Eoin Murphy was Kilkenny's star player last season
Defending Allianz Hurling League Division 1 champions, Kilkenny have a special incentive to win this year’s competition. Another success would see them join Tipperary at the top of the honours list.
Tipperary, who last won the Allianz 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, 2013 and 2014 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 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. He was sure 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,” he added.
GAA President John Horan said it was 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,” he felt.
“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 Hurling League since 1973.
The 1A programme starts under floodlights on Saturday night when Tipperary host Clare in Semple Stadium (7pm). 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.
First round fixtures
Division 1A - Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium, 7pm.
Division 1B - Dublin v Carlow, Parnell Park, 7pm.
Division 2A - Antrim v Kerry, Cushendall, 2pm.
Division 2B - Warwickshire v Wicklow, Pairc na hEireann, 2pm; Down v Derry, Pairc Esler, Newry, 5pm.
Division 3A - Lancashire v Tyrone, Abbottstown, 2pm.
Division 1A (2pm) - Kilkenny v Cork, Nowlan Park; Wexford v Limerick, Innovate Wexford Park.
Division 1B - Galway v Laois, Pearse Stadium, 12.30pm; Waterford v Offaly, Semple Stadium, 2pm.
Division 2A - Westmeath v London, TEG Cusack Park, 1pm; Mayo v Meath, Ballina, 2pm.
Division 2B - Donegal v Kildare, Letterkenny, 2pm.
Division 3A -Louth v Roscommon, Darver, 12.30pm; Monaghan v Armagh, Inniskeen, 12.30pm.
Division 3B - Sligo v Fermanagh, venue TBC 2pm; Cavan v Leitrim, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2pm.
January 26/27 - Round 1.
February 2/3 - Round 2.
February 16/17 - Round 3.
February 23/24 - Round 4.
March 3 - Round 5.
March 9/10 - Division 1 quarter-finals.
March 16 - Division 1 semi-finals.
March 24 - Division 1 final.
The 2018 picture
Division 1 - winners Kilkenny; runners-up Tipperary.
Relegated 1A to 1B - Waterford; promoted 1B to 1A Limerick.
Division 2A - winners Carlow; runners-up Westmeath.
Division 2B - winners Mayo; runners-up Down.
Division 3A - winners Warwickshire; runners-up Louth.
Division 3B - winners Lancashire; runners-up Leitrim.
The League winners
19 – Tipperary 1927, 49, 50, 52, 54, 55, 57, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65, 68, 79, 88, 94, 99, 2001, 2008.
18 – Kilkenny 1933, 62, 66, 76, 82, 83, 86, 90, 95, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018.
14 – Cork 1926, 30, 40, 41, 48, 53, 69, 70, 72, 74, 80, 81, 93, 1998.
11 – Limerick 1934, 35, 36, 37, 38, 47, 71, 84, 85, 92, 1997.
10 - Galway 1932, 51, 75, 87, 89, 96, 2000, 2004, 2010, 2017.
4 – Wexford 1956, 58, 67, 1973.
4 – Clare 1946, 77, 78, 2016.
3 – Waterford 1963, 2007, 2015.
2 – Dublin 1929, 1939, 2011.
1 – Offaly 1991.
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.
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