In a three-part series, Kevin Daly debates the merits of three of the top hurling forwards of recent years and selects his overall ‘Best Forward Of This Generation’.
It’s generally accepted that Henry Shefflin was the best forward in the game in the previous generation, if not of all time. ‘King Henry’ holds all the records in the book, but who of the current generation rules the roost?
In truth, there are just three men who can lay a serious claim to this title. TJ Reid is of course one, as are the current hurler of the year Joe Canning and Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan.
This isn’t to say that numerous other forwards haven’t been impressive. Patrick Horgan’s scoring tally for Cork has been phenomenal, while Richie Hogan has been unstoppable at times. However, both are probably just slightly below the aforementioned three stars.
In order to decipher who is the best, a number of factors must be considered; scoring tallies, leadership, skill-levels and stand-out individual performances are all vital.
Interestingly, all three made their debut in 2008, so let’s take a look at each player individually.
In Part 1, we discuss the case of Kilkenny’s TJ Reid as the best forward of his generation.
Of all three mentioned, Reid’s beginning to senior inter-county hurling was by far the least impressive individually, yet in terms of honours, it’s by far the most impressive. The Ballyhale man arrived into the greatest team to ever play the game.
Sure, Joe Canning arrived as a household name, while Callanan had a magnificent breakthrough year, but it was TJ Reid who appeared in an All-Ireland final in 2008. Reid also managed to bag four points off the bench which is quite impressive.
Despite this, Reid would face a number of difficult years in the black and amber, and even contemplated retirement in 2012 when he struggled to break into the side.
Luckily, he stuck at it, and even managed to grab his first All-Star in 2012.
This All-Star would prove the spark that ignited TJ Reid’s status as one of the best forwards in the game. 2014 would prove a real breakout year for Reid as he proved took over free-taking duties, scored an amazing All-Ireland final goal and was nominated for hurler of the year.
If 2014 was a good year for the former Fitzgibbon cup winner, 2015 would prove even better. Reid grabbed a goal in every game he played and averaged eleven points a game. TJ was now Kilkenny’s marquee forward and was awarded the hurler of the year.
Since then, Kilkenny have struggled somewhat in the championship but TJ Reid has remained as lethal an attacker as ever.
What separates Reid from the rest is his aerial ability, leadership and dead-ball skills. He is unquestionably the best penalty-taker in the game right now.
Despite Reid’s tally of an amazing seven All-Ireland titles, one wonders how Reid would be remembered if he had been at his peak ten years previous.
Would King Henry (Shefflin) have been as lauded had he been part of the current Kilkenny side?
Blasphemous debates aside, what we do know is that TJ Reid is an essential part of this current Kilkenny side and he continues to be one of the best forwards in the game.
Part 2 looks at the merits of Joe Canning as the greatest forward of his generation. Check back on Tuesday for more.