Minor sponsorship goes before major shake-up

THE All-Ireland minor championships start this evening with the Munster football quarter-finals — but interestingly, without a sponsor.

The GAA have decided not to renew ESB’s backing of the competitions for a seventh season nor offer the package to any other company.

“This has been done deliberately,” GAA communications manager Alan Milton confirmed last night. “You could probably call it a strategic decision. The large turnover in sponsors of GAA competitions over the last 18 months has shown there is no lack of interest. We are happy to have taken this decision.”

As reported by the Irish Examiner, the GAA are considering offering associate sponsors of the senior championships a three-part bundle from next year including the two under-age competitions (U21 and minor).

Were that to happen, Guinness — associate backers of the hurling championship and tied to the competition since 1995 — would be ruled out of the market as the GAA could not countenance an alcoholic beverage company sponsoring competitions played by teenagers under the legal drinking age of 18.

Incidentally, Guinness’ current sponsorship agreement elapses at the end of this season.

After the unveiling of Eircom as an associate sponsor of the All-Ireland SFC, there remain doubts about the continuing support of Etihad for the All-Ireland SHC.

Meanwhile, the New York Minor Board has been given a huge boost after discovering they will play their upcoming Connacht MFC first round clash against Roscommon in Croke Park (Saturday, April 23, 3pm).

It will be the first time any New York team has played a championship game in Croker since 1985 and it will be a curtain-raiser to the Allianz FL Division 4 final between Roscommon and Longford (5pm) and the Division 3 final involving Westmeath and Louth (7pm).

“It’s an absolute thrill,” minor board chairman Danny McKenna said yesterday. “We were trying to keep it a secret from the players until training tonight but they found out online of course and they’re delighted.”

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