Captains from the eight provincial finalists in last years Football Championship were at Croke Park on Tuesday at the official launch of this years GAA All-Ireland Football Championship, the first championship under the new multi-sponsor model introduced by the GAA.
Action on the pitch gets underway on the 11th May, with the meeting of New York and Leitrim in the Connacht Championship, and Longford and Westmeath in the Leinster Football Championship.
Croke Park will host its first championship action of 2008 on May 18th, with the Leinster Football Championship double-bill of Kildare v Wicklow and Meath v Carlow. Reigning Sam Maguire Cup holders, Kerry, commence their campaign on June 8th when they welcome Waterford or Clare to Killarney.
As well as the eight current captains, four legends of the game and All-Ireland winners over the past four decades were in Croke Park for the launch.
Ray Silke, Galway captain in 1998 was joined by Meath great Bernard Flynn, All-Ireland winner in 1988, the legendary Jack OShea who won the first of his seven titles with Kerry in 1978 and Seán ONeill, who won his third medal for Down in 1968. They were presented with framed photographs from the relevant championship year from the GAA and the three sponsors.
President Nickey Brennan officially welcomed the new sponsors on board, as he looked forward to another competitive Championship:
"We are delighted to have Toyota, Ulster Bank and Vodafone as our sponsors for the GAA Football Championship. They share our passion and commitment to the game, and we know our combined support for the championship will further enhance the profile of the game. We are delighted that sponsors of this stature are prepared to work with us in supporting our games."
"Action commences in less than two weeks time and we are all looking forward to a tremendous summer, culminating in the final of the All Ireland Football Championship on September 21 in Croke Park. I am certain that we will have a particularly competitive series of games with a number of counties emerging to challenge Kerry as they bid for their third Sam Maguire Cup in a row"
Continuing Mr. Brennan also made reference to the GAAs own promotional and advertising support plans for the Championship
"We will continue to use our very successful GAA Unrivalled campaign in our promotion of the GAA All Ireland Football Championship, with a comprehensive advertising, PR and promotional drive throughout the duration of the championship, in tandem with the promotional activities of our three sponsors"
Dave Shannon, Chief Executive, Toyota Ireland commented: "Toyota Ireland is looking forward to enhancing our long standing association with the GAA this year as one of the official sponsors of the Senior Football Championship.
"Throughout our affiliation we have always sought to promote and assist the GAA with our support, and look forward to playing our part in ensuring the Football Championship remains at the forefront of Irish Sporting life"
Cormac McCarthy, Chief Executive, Ulster Bank Group said: "We have supported the GAA on a variety of levels over the last number of years and we are delighted to be involved in one of the most sought after sports sponsorships in Ireland, the All Ireland Senior Football Championship. This new deal brings us to a completely different level in sports sponsorship."
He continued; "We have made no secret of our ambition to be the number one bank on the island of Ireland and we feel that the sponsorship of the GAA football Championship is consistent with that ambition. We look forward to making the 2008 GAA Football Championships a great success."
Vodafone Ireland Chief Executive Charles Butterworth said: "Vodafone has been proud to sponsor the GAA All Stars for the past 11 years. It has been a fantastic privilege to meet the players and their families every month and recognise their amazing achievements.
"We believe our close working relationship to date has been beneficial for both the GAA and Vodafone Ireland. The GAA Football Championship is across the country a key part of the lives of the many families, including those of the players and we look forward to continuing to recognise excellence in this new partnership."
30-Apr-08 by GAA.ie