Thursday 17 August 2017

Club Class

It's the 40th All-Ireland club finals and, after a slow start, they are now an integral part of the GAA calendar. Martin Breheny rates the all-time top 25 teams in each code

Steven O'Brien of Nemo Rangers shows tears of joy after the team's victory over Crossmolina to capture the All-Ireland club SFC title in 2003.
Steven O'Brien of Nemo Rangers shows tears of joy after the team's victory over Crossmolina to capture the All-Ireland club SFC title in 2003.
Ballyhale Shamrocks, who top our rankings for the club hurling championship, celebrate beating Loughrea in 2007.

Such has been the success of the AIB All-Ireland club championships that it's difficult to believe they weren't always an exciting feature of the GAA season.

They are, in fact, only 40 years old, having been introduced in 1971, amid considerable scepticism. Indeed when the late Bertie Coleman, from the Dunmore MacHales club in Galway, rose to propose the motion calling for the introduction of the club championship in 1970, he met with considerable negativity from Congress.

Cork led the opposition, contending that the provincial championships would be difficult to organise on a consistent basis and arguing that, in any event, there was nothing to be gained from pitting county champions against each other.

However, Coleman, who had driven the All-Ireland club idea for years, was a persuasive performer and as he outlined the value of the new competition, support levels grew.

The motion was eventually passed on a 92-74 vote and the All-Ireland club championships were added to the GAA calendar of which they are now an integral part.

They have greatly broadened the outlook of clubs all over the country and are now firmly established as an integral part of the sporting landscape between October and St Patrick's Day.

So who are the most successful clubs in the 40-year history of the All-Ireland club championships?

Today, we name the top 25 in both codes.

All-Ireland football winners East Kerry (1971), UCD ('74 and '75) and Thomond College, Limerick ('78) are omitted on the basis that they don't represent the true local ethic in the same way as traditional clubs.

Third-level college teams are drawn from a wide range of players from several counties throughout the country and have little in common with local club sides.

East Kerry were a divisional side, which gave them a huge advantage in '71. The rules were later changed, debarring divisional sides from competing.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport