The 2009 Gala All-Ireland Camogie championships were launched in Croke Park today by President Joan O'Flynn and Denise Lord, Customer Service Manager of Gala.

Also in attendance were the captains of the 27 counties competing in this year's Championships at senior, intermediate and junior level.

The Senior Championship has eight teams now competing for the O'Duffy Cup. Clare have joined the senior ranks this year following success in the Gala All-Ireland junior final in 2008 when they beat Offaly in a thrilling final in Croke Park.

Recognising the awesome contributions of the players involved Gala has introduced an award for the Senior Camogie player who delivers the most outstanding performance of the season, as voted for by the public – the Gala Performance Award. The player will win the Gala Performance Award trophy and a 5* luxury weekend break.

Speaking at the launch, Joan Flynn, who is in the first year of her Presidential term, said: 'This year's Championships have been ten years in the making as 2009 marks the transition from a 12-a-side to a 15-a-side game.

'In the last decade there is no doubt the inter-county game has been transformed and the standard has increased to new levels. I welcome too the Gala award which is an excellent addition to our senior championships as it recognises the individual and is not based on an entire team’s performance. It enhances Gala's outstanding support for Camogie.

'Attending matches is one of the most important ways of giving recognition to our players and increasing attendances is something we can improve on. In this context, the support of national and local media is much appreciated.

'Web broadcasting by RTÉ of some our senior championships games is an innovative aspect of this year's Gala All-Ireland series, while the Sunday Game will show highlights of our weekly senior matches.

'Our relationship with the GAA is also crucial. This year we look forward to staging a number of our championship games in county grounds around the country and, of course, to All Ireland finals day here on 13 September in Croke Park.'

Gala All-Ireland Championships – participating counties:

Senior - O'Duffy Cup: Cork, Clare, Dublin Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Wexford.

Intermediate - Jack McGrath Cup: Cork, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford, Clare.

Junior A - New Ireland Cup: Antrim, Down, Dublin, Laois, Waterford, Meath, Offaly.

Junior B - Nancy Murray Cup: Roscommon, Carlow, Kildare, Armagh, Tyrone, Westmeath.

Junior C - Máire Ní Chinnéide Cup: Donegal, Monaghan, Mayo, Louth, Cavan, Wicklow.

Defending All-Ireland Senior champions, Cork, will begin their defence of the title on Saturday, 20 June when Dublin visit Páirc Uí Rinn. Also on that day, League champions Wexford, will face Limerick in Hospital.

The following week, Tipperary will face Kilkenny at Semple, with Galway squaring up to Clare in Athenry.

The All-Ireland semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday, 15 August, with the final four weeks later as a double-header with the junior decider in Croke Park.