The 12 days of HPNXmas is our way of giving back over the holiday period, and providing a place for some of our thoughts that didn’t get run for whatever reason during the year.
As much as we appreciate the sport as a spectacle and cultural institution, we’re not hurling exports. We can, however, use statistics and we like to rank things. As such, we’ve taken the number of clubs in each county, along with the population of each county, to try and identify which county is the best at Hurling.
Unsurprisingly, the big three counties of Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork fill out the top spots on our “people per championship” rankings as well as “clubs per championship” measures:
While Tipperary is known as the “Premier County” and indeed as the home of the sport, it’s little Kilkenny, with a smaller population than Tipperary or Cork, and more titles, that emerges as the truly premier county. Kilkenny, with 36 titles, has won a title for every 2,753 people who currently reside there, more than twice the rate of winning as Tipperary.
At club level, Galway emerges as the most successful county with 13 wins, but on a per capita basis Kilkenny (with 11 titles) again reigns supreme. Their dominance is largely due to the success of the Ballyhale Shamrocks, who have taken home 6 All-Ireland titles, despite Ballyhale only having 335 residents. Given that there are 15 on the field at any time, roughly 5% of Ballyhale has been on the field for each one of their wins.
Cork, a comparative giant in population terms (being the third biggest city and second biggest county in Ireland), is a laggard in terms of hurling glory, barely outperforming Offaly’s four titles and Wexford’s six, once we adjust for population.
Hurling is most played and most successfully played in the southwest of Ireland. Most of the counties that have a decent population and a decent focus on hurling have won a title. Every county in Munster has won a title, Leinster winners are the huge Dublin plus the four southernmost counties of Offaly, Wexford, Laois and Kilkenny. Galway are the only winners among the five Connacht counties, and no Ulster county has won.
Another thing that jumps out from this comparison is the really lopsided results in finals for some of these sides. Tipperary have won 27 of their 40 finals, and Cork 30 of 49, giving them both a roughly 2/3rds win-rate on the big day.
The big three’s historical winningness of course means a lot of other counties have had a rather poor success rate at crunch-time. The main historical victims have been Wexford who sit at about 35%, Dublin at 29%, and poor Galway whose 4 titles from 23 starts is 17%, basically a cruel multiplication of St Kilda’s dismal grand final record.
At Interprovincial level, Munster reign supreme with 46 Railway Cups, ahead of Leinster on 29, Connacht on 11 and Ulster on 0. On a per capita basis, Munster is the most successful province, ahead of Connacht.