GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Nine in 2019: Reasons to be excited about the new GAA season
Last Updated: 03/01/19 6:15am
As 2019 dawns, we examine nine reasons to look forward to the new GAA season.
New rules set for trial
With opposition coming from several quarters, the five experimental rules in Gaelic football are up for trial over the next month, with a reassessment to come before they are ratified for another trial period throughout the National League.
As the sport could be set for a new look, it's intriguing to see how these laws will work in practice, and how they will be received before being voted upon in 2020.
Dublin's drive for five
The two most recent bids for five consecutive All-Ireland titles in GAA have famously fallen at the final hurdle. The Kilkenny hurlers in 2010 and Kerry footballers in 1982 both suffered defeats in All-Ireland finals.
Can Jim Gavin's Dubs go where no other side has gone before? Given that the 2018 triumph was the most dominant of their current run, they're hot favourites to do just that.
An All-Ireland club football championship to savour
Four teams remain. Two have been there, done that. Dr Crokes and Corofin tasted Andy Merrigan Cup success in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and most anticipate that they will face off in the final.
However, two upstarts in the form of Mullinalaghta and Gaoth Dobhair are out to spoil the party, after claiming historic provincial titles.
Will the Kerry and Galway giants face off in Croker on St Patrick's Day? Or can one of the underdogs create even more history?
Crucial year for football's provincial championships
With all four provincial finals providing one-sided affairs in 2018, the championships may need a shot in the arm in 2019 to avoid further calls for them to be scrapped going forward.
Ulster looks notoriously difficult to call, while there are three credible contenders in Connacht in the form of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Meanwhile, it would take a major shock for Kerry or Dublin to be dethroned in Munster or Leinster respectively.
Will the fixtures be fixed?
With the Club Players Association leading the calls for fresh change in order for more certainty on club fixtures being available, the GAA have themselves admitted that this is a challenge they must overcome.
Will 2019 hold a legacy as the beginning of a radical improvement?
Barnstorming opener in the 2019 Munster Hurling Championship
Cork v Tipperary is Munster hurling's answer to El Clasico. The two counties have shared 96 of the 131 Munster Championships between them, and will lock horns once again on the first weekend of the championship on Leeside. The two rivals have played out some epic clashes in recent years, and this will be the first time they meet in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Given how the Rebels took a draw and a win from their last two summer visits to Semple Stadium, the Premier will be looking to lay down an early marker in the summer.
John Meyler's Cork side will be eager to get their quest for a third consecutive provincial crown off to a winning start, and what better way than against their greatest rivals?
More of the same from hurling, please!
If the 2019 hurling championship is even half as good as the 2018 version, we're in for a real treat. Right now, there seems to be no reason why it can't deliver once again. With nine of the 10 teams in the Liam MacCarthy field realistically targeting silverware, it appears more difficult than ever before to predict a winner.
There have been five separate winners of the All-Ireland title in the last six seasons. Will any of those sides strike again? Or could Cork or Waterford make it six different winners in seven years?
Strap in, it promises to be epic.
Turning over a new leaf
Several top hurling counties head into 2019 under new management. Can the fortunes of Tipperary, Waterford, Dublin, Westmeath, Laois or Antrim improve given the changes at their helm?
Particular attention will focus on whether Liam Sheedy can lead Tipp back to the top, nine years after he guided them to Liam MacCarthy success.
Open field in the club hurling championship
Ballyhale Shamrocks v Ballygunner will be a clash of the titans, as the Leinster and Munster champions face off in Thurles. The Kilkenny kingpins know what it takes to go all the way, but this Waterford city side will be buoyed by finally clinching a provincial title as they aim to take full advantage of their position.
Meanwhile, Cushendall and St Thomas' meet in the other semi-final. Both the Antrim and Galway champions have been to Croke Park this decade, and will quietly fancy their chances of Tommy Moore Cup glory.