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What’s The Better Provincial Championship: Ulster Football Or Munster Hurling?

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Over the past number of years, these two provincial championships have stood out from the rest in terms of competiveness, intensity and rivalry. We discuss, what could arguably be the better provincial championship?

Going on this year’s games, there is only one winner but since the turn of the century, which province has produced the greatest games?

The Leinster championships have been marred by the dominance of the Dubs in football and the Kilkenny hurlers. In Connacht, Mayo’s recent dominance had put an end to a period in which Galway and Mayo shared the majority of the titles. Down south, it’s been a case of Cork or Kerry for some time now.

Kilkenny: The dominant force in Leinster for many years
Kilkenny: The dominant force in Leinster for many years

Although Ulster hurling is still being dominated by Antrim, there is somewhat of a hurling re-emergence happening in other Ulster counties. However, the fact that it is played off as a separate competiton due to the fact that no Ulster team is competing in the Liam McCarthy Cup doesn’t help matters.

Therefore, there are two provincial championships which stand out from the crowd, and they are, of course, the Munster hurling championship and the Ulster football championship.

In Ulster, since the turn of the century, there have only been four winners of the Anglo Celt Cup, from a possible nine. Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan have been the counties lucky enough to claim provincial glory.

Last year's champions Monaghan ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Last year’s champions Monaghan ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

That said, there have been some fantastic games and the rivalries between counties is certainly the fiercest in the country. When push comes to shove in Ulster championship battles, there are no expenses spared.

Full-blooded, fiery and full of attrition, Ulster championship clashes always attract the headlines, sometimes for the wrong reasons but mainly, columns are written in admiration of the competitive nature of the competition.

There have been plenty of incredible clashes since the beginning of the 2000’s, including final thrillers in Croke Park, none more so than the 2005 final and replay between Armagh and Tyrone.

St Tiernach’s Park in Clones was the venue for the 2003 drawn Ulster final in which Tyrone and Down played out a thrilling game as the score line suggests. It finished, Down 4-08 to Tyrone’s 1-17.

In recent seasons, it has been the battles between Donegal and Monaghan and Tyrone that have been the big games. Unfortunately, the likes of Derry and Down haven’t been able to reach the highs of their respective 90’s exploits.

After Armagh’s dominance in the 2000’s, they too have faltered but as with everything, it runs in cycles and the tradition within every county is strong enough to keep the province as a healthy, competitive championship.

Armagh and Tyrone's battles were some of the greatest football games of all time ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Armagh and Tyrone’s battles were some of the greatest football games of all time ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The competitive nature of each and every clash is Ulster is something only the Munster hurling championship can compete with. In Munster, every county has won the title besides Kerry since the year 1998.

There have been some fantastic spectacles in the Munster hurling championship since the beginning of the 2000’s. However, the battles between Cork and Waterford in the 2003 and 2004 Munster finals definitely stand out.

Mullane had a special relationship with the Cork fans in the Town End Terrace ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger
Mullane had a special relationship with the Cork fans in the Town End Terrace ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger

Before crowds of over 52,000 people, Cork came out on top in 2003 before Waterford exacted revenge the following year. After John Mullane had seen red, Waterford put in a heroic performance to see off the Rebels on a score line of 3-16 to 1-21

Passion, skill and courage are words always associated with the Munster senior hurling championship and successful sunny days in Thurles live long in the memory of any supporter.

This year’s Munster championship was a very poor affair and a final thriller we were hoping for certainly didn’t materialise. However, the magic remains around this championship and certainly will for years to come.

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

In terms of deciding what championship is better, it is very difficult to choose a winner. Certainly, on this year’s viewing alone, you would certainly have to say that the Ulster football championship has been better.

However, since 2000, both championships have had their fair share of thrillers. The hurling championship probably edged matters up until more recent times, where Ulster football’s fierce and feisty contests have been the better of the two.

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Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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