Seen as Kilkenny are about to kick off their 2016 Championship season and go for another three-in-a-row, this week’s Thursday Top 10 will look at the top 10 Kilkenny hurlers since the year 2000.
Over those 16 seasons, Kilkenny have won ten All-Ireland titles and played in an incredible thirteen All-Ireland finals. Safe to say then that this wasn’t easy to pick, but here it goes.
- Martin Comerford
One of the most underrated players of the great Kilkenny team, he may not have had the swagger of a Henry Shefflin or DJ Carey but his presence and skill was a massive part of their success. Without him 2003 and 2009 may never have happened. A top class hurler.
- Richie Power
A player that had a massive underage pedigree but who took a few years to find his feet, the 2006 All-Ireland final was the real starting point for this man’s career. It was around 2009 and 2010 that Power started to become as important as Henry Shefflin to Kilkenny.
- Michael Kavanagh
An inclusion that may surprise many, but what an outstanding corner-back. Kavanagh was in the Kilkenny side right from the beginning of Brian Cody’s reign and was a major part of his success. He was one of the steeliest members of the side and this rubbed off on the rest of his teammates.
- TJ Reid
He always showed glimpses, but it wasn’t until Shefflin left that Reid really came into his own and is now probably the leading hurler in the country. He gets included here mainly for his importance in maintaining Kilkenny’s success once the older guard left, but is a warranted and justified inclusion nonetheless.
- Eddie Brennan
He may have often been the man who finished chances that were laid on a plate for him but over his career Brennan showed that he was so much more than that. As a corner-forward he was predominantly a finisher but also showed his completeness and versatility as a top class wing-forward. His run for Richie Hogan’s goal and overall performance in the 2011 final sums this up.
- Eoin Larkin
He may be high up on the list but he has been a phenomenal player for Kilkenny in this writer’s opinion. He was a late comer to the side but since fully finding his feet, there have been few better. His aerial ability and finishing has been second to none; he has also reinvented himself and has been equally as key in the 2014 and 2015 team through his work rate and tackling.
- DJ Carey
The golden boy of hurling in the 1990s has almost become lost and forgotten to some people seeing as Kilkenny have had even more success without the man they relied on for so long. He was still an important player at the start of the 2000s though. 2002 was his big year when he created the goal to beat Tipperary and scored the early goal against Clare that kickstarted the Cats’ dominance.
- Henry Shefflin
Some might find it strange to see the King at number three. He fully deserved the title ‘The King’ and was a phenomenal and vital player for the Cats in their successes. He was one of the main leaders and achieved everything there was achieve in the game. This writer holds Shefflin in the highest of regards but still sees him as the third best player in Kilkenny since 2000.
- JJ Delaney
So who could possibly get in ahead of Henry Shefflin, not even one hurler but two? Second place goes to JJ Delaney. This writer feels people only saw a percentage of Delaney’s greatness down to the fact that he had to play full-back for the good of the team. If JJ Delaney spent a full career at wing-back, he would have been held in even higher regard.
Outside of all that, Delaney was possibly the greatest defender of all time. The fact that he could perform so well at wing-back and full-back shows this. His aerial ability, tackling and all round aggression meant he could beat anyone on the match day. He was an incredible player.
- Tommy Walsh
So who could be number one, who could get in ahead of both Henry Shefflin and JJ Delaney? The man with nine deserved All-Stars in a row, in four different positions. When writing a tribute, we called him ‘The Greatest Hurler of his Generation, If Not All Time’, and that puts him at the top of this list.
What a hurler. He is the only hurler who we could genuinely say could play anywhere. And he couldn’t just play anywhere, he could play anywhere to an unbelievably high standard. Small in stature, he could catch ball over opponents’ heads, he could defend, he could attack; he simply had everything.
Derek Lyng, Michael Fennelly, Richie Hogan, Jackie Tyrell, Noel Hickey, Andy Comerford, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Brian Hogan, and Paul Murphy. They are ten other names that we left out. It was very hard to pick, people will disagree but let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts on our Pundit Arena GAA page.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena
The latest episode of The 16th Man GAA podcast from Pundit Arena is also now available.