Last week, we chose the five best hurlers of the modern era never to have won an All-Ireland medal. Hurlers from proud, successful, top-tier hurling counties who have been denied a Celtic Cross medal due to factors outside of their control.
Of course, there are plenty more hurlers who deserve just as much recognition but often find themselves overlooked because they come from outside the so-called ‘traditional’ counties, hurlers who are just as proud, but have more hurdles to contend with.
Therefore, we have selected five of the best hurlers currently playing who represent counties outside of the top tier.
For the purpose of this piece, we are choosing hurlers from counties who have not featured in an All-Ireland final in the last 20 years and who are currently playing outside of the top tier provincial championships.
Have we missed out on anyone? Let us know in the comments.
Shane Conway (Kerry)
Following both his exploits for Kerry and UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup, Shane Conway has become a household name in hurling over the past two seasons.
The 22-year-old first came to prominence during the 2017 season after which he was named the U21 ‘B’ Hurler of the Year. The following year, he made his senior debut during the Munster Senior Hurling League and he has been on an upward trajectory ever since. A skilful and accurate sharpshooter, he scored 35 points during Kerry’s 2018 Joe McDonagh campaign and followed that up with 0-44 in last year’s edition.
Killian Doyle (Westmeath)
Killian Doyle is one of the most potent and exciting forwards in the game at the moment. The Raharney man made his debut for the Westmeath senior side during the 2016 National League and has become one of the Lake County’s leading players.
At underage level, Doyle was an integral part of the U21 team who sensationally beat Kilkenny in the Leinster quarter-final meeting in 2016. He opted to travel during their 2018 summer but in Westmeath’s 2019 run to the Joe McDonagh final, the 22-year-old notched up 2-50 before registering another 1-11 during the decider in Croke Park, making him the competition’s highest scorers last year.
Neil McManus (Antrim)
One of the most recognisable hurlers at both inter-county and club level, Neil McManus has been starring for Antrim since making his senior debut in 2007 and is consistently among the top scorers in the National League.
McManus has experienced plenty of success with his club Ruairi Óg Cushendall, winning four Antrim titles and two Ulster Championship medals while in 2016, he scored 1-7 in their All-Ireland final loss to Na Piarsaigh. Though 32, McManus shows no signs of slowing up. He was the top scorer in the Joe McDonagh Cup in 2018 while he racked up a tally of 1-4o during last year’s competition.
Martin Kavanagh (Carlow)
Another player who has quickly become a household name in hurling is Carlow’s Martin Kavanagh. Having starred for Carlow since 2012, he also inspired his club St Mullins to a Leinster Final in 2019.
Like Doyle, Kavanagh missed Carlow’s successful run in the 2018 Joe McDonagh while travelling but he more than made up for it during the 2019 season. During the National League, it was Kavanagh’s magnificent late free, his 11th point of the game, that earned a draw against Galway, a performance that has been hailed as one of Carlow’s best in decades.
While they failed to maintain their Division 1 status this year, Kavanagh still put in an eye-catching shift, notching up 32 points.
Chris Nolan (Carlow)
Another star hurler outside of the top tier is Carlow’s Chris Nolan who has been catching the eye at inter-county level, with his college IT Carlow, and at club level with Mount Leinster Rangers for years. The 22-year-old made his senior debut in 2017 and has been an integral player for Colm Bonnar’s side ever since.
Lethal from open play and placed balls, Nolan was a key contributor to IT Carlow during their impressive run to the 2020 Fitzgibbon Cup final. He carried that form into Carlow’s National League campaign, registering 13 points in four games.