The Cadbury GAA Football U21 Championship final on May 4 will see Cork and Down battle it out to lift the Clarke Cup and be crowned All-Ireland U21 football champions.
A Cork victory would see them surpass Kerry as the county with the most U21 titles; both counties are currently tied on 10 apiece, while Down will be aiming to win only their second All-Ireland title since 1979.
Cork have had to overcome very strong opposition in form of Kerry, Tipperary and Dublin on the way to today’s final while Down, after coming through the Ulster Championship, overcame the challenge of a much fancied Mayo side three days after the Ulster final.
Speaking at the captains' photocall in Croke Park, Criostóir Ó Cuana, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, said: “Bank Holiday Monday sees what has been an exciting 2009 Cadbury GAA U21 Football Championship come to a climax and after the excellent encounters that both Cork and Down have been involved in, it’s fitting that they should be the last two counties standing.
“The quality of so many of this year’s games underlines the importance of this grade in the development of our players and the profile of the competition has been enhanced by the work undertaken by Cadbury and their Heroes of the Future campaign. I am confident we will get a final contest worthy of bringing the curtain down on this year’s competition.”
Shane Guest, Cadbury senior brand manager, said: “ Portlaoise will be alive on May 4 and we are encouraging fans from both counties to get behind their teams for the final in O'Moore Park. The season will continue for us after the final as we go on to present the Cadbury Hero of the Future on May 19 and judging on the calibre of the players shortlisted, I’m glad I’m not a judge!”
This year Cadbury announced that they will be continuing their commitment to U21 football by extending their sponsorship of the GAA Football U21 Championship for a further three years, building on a four-year term as the first sponsors of the U21 Football Championship.
Cadbury have awarded more than 40 Hero of the Match Awards since the beginning of its sponsorship in recognition of the hard word and skills of players at this level. The Hero of the Future Award has been presented to three outstanding players at U21 level to mark their potential for the future and their dedication to the game.
*Cadbury Hero of the Future Awards to date:*
- 2006: Keith Higgins from Mayo
- 2007: Fintan Goold from Cork
- 2008: Killian Young from Kerry
The Cadbury Hero of the Future Award has been selected by public voting on www.cadburygaau21.com and adjudication from Kildare senior footballer Dermot Earley and TG4 journalist Micheal Ó Domhnaill.
This year sees the introduction of Paul Caffrey, former U21 Football selector, as a third judge for these awards, which raises the stakes as the players will have a player, a former selector and manager and a TV analyst to impress.
The winning player will win a holiday for himself, €1,000 for his club and €1,000 for his county board. Cadbury are now also offering each of the 15 Heroes of the Match a training kit for their club from this year.
Fourteen Cadbury Hero of the Match Awards have been presented to the players below in 2009.
The 15 shortlisted players will be invited to the Players' Lounge on May 19, where the 2009 Cadbury Hero of the Future Award will be presented to one deserving player.
2009 Cadbury Hero of the Match players to date:
Gary Gaughan, Sligo
Tom Parsons, Mayo
Aidan O'Shea, Mayo
Sean Carey, Tipperary
Colm O Neill, Cork
Brian Fox, Tipperary
Ger Reddin, Laois
Paddy Andrews, Dublin
Dean Kelly, Dublin
Stefan Forker, Armagh
Paul McComiskey, Down
Peter Fitzpatrick, Down
Ciarán Sheehan, Cork
Conor Poland, Down