Fourteen teams, 13 counties. That is the make-up of the 2019 senior hurling and football championships.

Cork fly the flag in both codes this season, as they have done for a number of years since that momentous September in 1990 when the Rebels annexed both codes.

In the years that have followed, the Leesiders have more often than not been the county that has progressed the furthest across both codes.

Galway have assumed the mantle on a few occasions. The rejuvenation of Dublin hurling has seen them share the limelight with the footballers for a few years, while Wexford (2008) and Tipperary (2016) have both enjoyed prolonged seasons on both fronts.

Lie of the dual land

Since Cork's unique feat of 1990, one two further occasions has a county made it to the showpiece in both codes in the same year.

The Rebels also concluded the 90s with double Croke Park dates in September. Jimmy Barry-Murphy's young guns upset Kilkenny in a game remembered fondly by few outside the county, while a fortnight later the footballers fell short against Meath.

Two years later and Galway had it the other way around as John O’Mahony’s side powered past Meath, while the hurlers put 2-15 on Tipperary but still lost out by three points.

The introduction of the qualifiers has increased the likelihood of longer runs in the championship and the mid-noughties saw regular semi-final and final appearances in both codes. In 2008 Wexford tore up the form book to reach the last four of the football championship, one round further than their hurlers.

A year later and it is almost novel to think that the Dublin hurlers' quarter-final exit was matched by their football counterparts. It marks the last time the men from the capital failed to reach at least the last four.

On four occasions this decade a county has won an All-Ireland in one code and lost a semi-final in the other, Dublin (2011 and 2013), Cork (2010) and Tipperary (2016).

Cork fans will be in attendance at GAA headquarters both Saturday and Sunday, but the following for the hurlers will significantly exceed those watching Ronan McCarthy’s charges tackle the reigning All-Ireland champions on Jones Road.

GAA president John Horan has come under fire for stating that there are "different cohorts" of fans behind each team, but according to Larry Tompkins, there is something to that.

Tompkins, a winning captain in 1990 and losing manager in 1999, acknowledges that the football devotees have always lagged behind their small ball counterparts, as much for geographical reasons as anything else.

Pointing out the sizeable area of a predominantly football West Cork, the travel to watch the Rebels at home, never mind on the road, can be considerable.

More than half of the football team named to start against Dublin Saturday night hail from West Cork clubs. By contrast, Newcestown's Luke Meade was the sole representative from the catchment area on the Cork panel for the facile win over Westmeath

"There are counties have their number one sports," he says. "It needs a team to show signs that it is progressing and doing well.

"Whether you win lose or draw you need to show you have a purpose about you. After the Munster final defeat to Kerry, there is now an air of expectation. It's after rejuvenating the crowd somewhat"

It is a sentiment strongly echoed by Tony Dempsey, who has managed and coached Wexford teams at all levels in both codes

"You have to win, win at a very high level and you have to win over the Doubting Thomas’," he insists. "You have to be successful for more than one year to convert people."

In 2008 the Yellowbellies ran out against Tyrone for a first All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 1945, but the 65,252 in attendance was boosted by the fact that the Kerry-Cork replay took place on the same day.

Two years ago the record attendance was broken for a Leinster hurling final, where the majority of the 60,032 in attendance went home disappointed as Wexford lost out to Galway. This year they outnumbered Kilkenny as they ended a provincial drought and tickets will be in hot demand for the All-Ireland semi-final.

The footballers play second fiddle, but county is somewhat unique.

We have 49 clubs in Wexford and 46 of them are dual

"The problem with Wexford," explains chairperson Derek Kent, "is we don’t have pockets of single codes. We have 49 clubs in Wexford and 46 of them are dual."

The three outliers – Rathnure, Oulart-the-Ballagh and Buffer’s Alley - sit top of the pecking order in Wexford club hurling, their 45 county titles shared between them. 

Kent says what is crucial is that spending on both codes is kept on par.

While more than 15,000 packed into Wexford Park for the hurling round-robin contest with Kilkenny, the previous month, the attendance was 91% less for the visit of the Louth footballers in the Leinster first round.

In 2017, they only managed to bring 1,500 to Croke Park for the Division 4 football final.


"Some counties don’t spend the same on footballers, or vice versa, but that’s not the way we operate."

By the beginning of June, the costs associated with Davy Fitzgerald’s team were €325,000, €20,000 more than the footballers. The minor footballers have cost the county €25,000, while the hurlers bill stands at €40,000 as they had an extra four weeks of action.

The "success" and support base may not be equal, but the financial outlay is on par.

"Players have to be treated equally," says Dempsey. "You shouldn’t be disadvantaged by playing a minority sport."

It also is in keeping with the GPA squad Charter, which "deliberately sets out proven processes and practices" that must be adhered to by every inter-county panel.

"The squad charter must be agreed by each individual panel at the beginning of every year and signed off by the GPA Squad Representatives, the County Officers and inter county team manager," a GPA spokesperson told RTÉ Sport.

When the hurlers are going well, our fundraising arm goes well. That money goes back into the County Board and is equally divided between both code

"The Charters are agreed in rule by Central Council and are reviewed and monitored by a joined GAA/GPA Charter Review Committee."

The buzz around the Wexford hurlers also has a positive effect on the big ball in the county.

"When the hurlers are going well, our fundraising arm goes well. That money goes back into the County Board and is equally divided between both codes."

The costs incurred when two sides progress towards the business end of the respective championships isn’t make-or-break in many cases.

Last year Galway spent €1.8m preparing its inter-county teams (minor up to senior in both codes) as they reached the All-Ireland hurling final and football semi-final.

This year has been a disappointment on both fronts with early exits, but they expect the figure for the senior teams to be "around 15%" less than last year's final bill.

"The costs involved in funding an inter-county team are front loaded," explains Galway chairperson Pat Kearney. "The outlay begins in October, November and runs through to the summer. The difference in reaching the quarter-finals, and say final, isn’t as significant as the early season costs."

And everything makes a difference.

In Davy Fitzgerald’s first season in charge of Wexford, he carried a squad of 38. His Leinster winning panel has been trimmed down to 32, and they are looking to follow suit with the footballers next season.

"We started to manage it like a business a few years ago. We outline the budgets at the start of the year and that’s it."

Promotion of the games within counties is the cornerstone of success, but this is easier said than done.

Dempsey wonders how you manage two sports that are intrinsically different.

"There’s no question football is closer to rugby and soccer than hurling," he says.

"How do you promote hurling in Dublin when football is so strong? Cormac Costello and Ciarán Kilkenny are fantastic hurlers. I have no doubt that if they were weren't with the footballers, Dublin would be All-Ireland hurling champions."

We need your consent to load this SoundCloud contentWe use SoundCloud to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Follow Cork v Kilkenny (2pm) and Tipperary v Laois (4pm) in the All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app. Watch live coverage on The Sunday Game from 1.30pm and listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio's Sunday Sport and Raidió na Gaeltachta. Highlights of both games on The Sunday Game on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player from 9.30pm.