The GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship was launched today at the Dunloy GAA club in the Glens of Antrim by GAA President Christy Cooney.
Cooney was joined by senior inter-county hurlers Neil McManus (Antrim), Tomás Brady (Dublin), Cyril Donnellan (Galway) and Paraic Maher from reigning All-Ireland senior champions Tipperary.
The GAA President first paid tribute to the Dunloy club for hosting the event.
"It is a club with an enormously proud tradition. Antrim has a proud tradition also in hurling and I would like to welcome (Ulster Chairman) Aogan Farrell and Frankie Quinn, the Antrim secretary, for attending today," he said.
"We are here to launch the Hurling Championship, but we are also here to showcase Dunloy and the wonderful facilities that are here.
"I had the great pleasure in being here last year in opening the new indoor facilities and Dunloy, Antrim and Ulster are immensely proud, and we are immensely proud as an Association with the wonderful progress and the wonderful facilities that Dunloy have available."
Cooney is looking forward to a busy summer of Championship action after what was an excellent campaign in 2010 and a very keenly-contested league programme this spring.
"Our hurling Championship is all about the players, because our players give us the tremendous enjoyment that we all get.
"The All-Ireland final was awesome without question. I was praying silently that last year's All-Ireland final would be as good as the previous years.
"It's a credit to the players of Kilkenny and Tipperary that they gave us an outstanding game of hurling."
He added: "We had a tremendous Allianz Hurling League. It was a great final and my sincere congratulations to Dublin on their outstanding victory
"The league was very competitive - our crowds were up, we had great games which augurs well for our Championship.
"Not only does it augur well for our Hurling Championship but it also augurs well in a significant way for the development of hurling. Of course we have challenges in weaker counties, but these challenges will be overcome.
"Over the next two months we will announce a new Hurling Plan for the ongoing development of hurling. (GAA President Elect) Liam O'Neill and his colleagues are working hard on that.
"It is important that we are positive about our games. It is our game, traditionally our game and we want it to grow and flourish.
"Our players create that opportunity for us at inter-county level to give wonderful spectacles to everybody that has the chance to see it and particularly to influence young children."
The 2011 Hurling Championship gets underway this Saturday afternoon with three first round matches in the Ulster Championship - Donegal v Down, Tyrone v Derry and Fermanagh v Armagh.
The Leinster Championship begins a few hours later with the preliminary round meeting of Laois and Antrim at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise.
"Today is special that we are here in Antrim to launch our Hurling Championship. We all believe that we are going to have a tremendous season this year," stated Cooney.
"There is a great buzz already around the Munster and Leinster Championships about the pairings that are going to meet in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. I have no doubt that we will have a tremendous Championship this year.
"I encourage our patrons to come and enjoy it and quite shortly we will be announcing a new ticket package to make it easier for our patrons to come to our games."
Dunloy GAA Club Chairman Vincent Boyle thanked those for bringing the All-Ireland SHC launch to the club.
"It is a great honour for us and myself as club chairman to have this launch in Dunloy," he said.
"It was great to see young players on the pitch early who are hopefully the stars of tomorrow. It is great to see the stars of today here and you are very welcome also.
"I would like to thank all those who are here who are stars of the GAA like my own dad. If it wasn't for you who put in the hard work and voluntary effort we wouldn't be here today so thanks very much to you all."