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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 22 November, 2017
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11 reasons why we're glad the All-Ireland U21 hurling championship is back

This is one competition you won’t want to miss.

Tony Kelly captained Clare to Bord Gais Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling glory last year.
Tony Kelly captained Clare to Bord Gais Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling glory last year.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE FIRST BIG U21 hurling showdown of the summer takes place tomorrow night when Dublin face Kilkenny.

The Leinster championship started last week and it’s the start of another summer of potentially cracking fare in a competition that we’ve a special place for.

Here’s why.

1. It’s pure knockout

In an era of back doors, the U21 championship is the one intercounty competition where there are no second chances on offer.

It’s the old ‘one strike and you’re out’ format that draws big crowds and provides for heartbreaking finishes like Clare’s victory over Tipperary in the 2012 Munster final:

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

2. It spawns the heroes of tomorrow

Darach Honan scored five, Colin Ryan three and Conor McGrath one goal in Clare’s march to All-Ireland U21 glory in 2009.

Four years later, all three played key roles in Clare’s senior win.

That’s just one example as the U21 grade is a breeding ground for future stars, providing a bridge from the minor to senior ranks.

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

3. The silverware is shared around

Since the competition was first played in 1964, eight counties have won the All-Ireland.

In the last seven seasons alone, there have been four different winners.

Clare have won the last three in succession but Tipperary, Galway and Kilkenny have also lifted the Cross of Cashel Cup trophy since 2008.

Padraic Maher raises the U21 trophy Padraic Maher captained Tipperary to All-Ireland glory in 2010. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

4. The innocence of youth in post-match interviews

Clare defender David McInerney was convinced that the Banner County would be playing Wexford in the 2013 All-Ireland final.

Little did he know that Antrim had stunned the Slaneysiders in the other half of the draw.

Click here to check out McInerney’s reaction!

5. It gives us some live midweek sport in the summer

No Olympics, no World Cup, no European Championships and the Copa America is cloaked in suspicion following the recent FIFA revelations.

What will we do for live midweek sport?

Fear not! TG4 are on hand to bring us all of the best action this summer from the U21 hurling championship.

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

6. It throws up some of the finest scores you’ll ever see

Cork may not have won an epic 2011 Munster final against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds but Aidan Walsh produced one of the competition’s best-ever individual displays.

This was Walsh’s sensational score that took a classic tie into extra-time:

Source: iamskittles88/YouTube

7. The players can walk on water

Competition sponsors Bord Gais Energy have taken the players to some of the most scenic spots in the country, including this brilliant recent visit to Glendalough:

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

8. You can score 4 goals and not be on the winning team

Joe Canning scored 4-7 in the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final and yet still ended up on the losing side.

In yet another extra-time classic that has pockmarked the U21 grade in recent years, Clare edged out the Tribesmen before landing a breakthrough All-Ireland title.

9. Fans can get pretty passionate about the whole thing

There were quite remarkable scenes at the end of the 2008 Munster final, when Pa Bourke slotted over a controversial winning point from a 65.

Hosts Clare had a free to win the game but referee Jason O’Mahony was told by one of his umpires that Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy had stepped outside the small square with his previous puckout, an offence punishable by the award of a 65 to the opposition.

A match umpire is escorted from the pitch Tempers flared at the end of the 2008 Munster final. Source: John Kelly/INPHO

10. It makes us love TG4 even more

The Irish language channel beams the finest U21 hurling games to our living rooms and for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

A word of warning though. If you’re Sky-plussing a game that you suspect might go to extra-time, put the following programme on record too. Trust us, we’ve been burned before.

 

11. There have been some amazing breakthroughs for counties…

….like when Clare beat Kilkenny to win the 2009 All-Ireland title.

Nicky O'Connell and Conor Fogarty Clare's Nicky O'Connell and Kilkenny's Conor Fogarty clashed in the 2009 All-Ireland U21 final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Four years later, the Banner County celebrated senior success. Who says that underage glory doesn’t transfer to the biggest stage of all?

Here’s the 11 key GAA fixtures to keep an eye on this week

5 of Dublin’s senior squad are back out in action for their U21′s tomorrow night against Kilkenny

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