All too quickly, another hurling season has come to an end with Tipperary lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time since 2016.
Liam Sheedy returned to the helm after a nine-year absence and took a disheartened and disjointed group of players from the disappointment of 2018 to the heights of All-Ireland glory.
Given their dominance in 2019, losing only one game from eight, it is only fitting that Tipperary have a strong contingent in the Pundit Arena Team of the Year. Liam Sheedy’s men have six representatives, including two potential Hurler of the Year nominees.
Leinster champions Wexford have two players named while Limerick are represented by Sean Finn and Aaron Gillane. Given their impressive run to the All-Ireland final, four Kilkenny men are included. Patrick Horgan rounds off the team as the sole Cork player.
Pundit Arena Hurling Team of the Year 2019:
1. Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)
The Kilkenny netminder had another colossal year despite sitting out their opening games of the Leinster Championship with a broken tibia. Brian Hogan ran him close with his consistent performances for Tipperary but Murphy remains a cut above the rest.
2. Sean Finn (Limerick)
Sean Finn has established himself as the best man-marker in the game currently. His performance against Clare was outstanding and he kept John McGrath well marshalled in the Munster final. The Bruff man is one of Limerick’s most consistent performers and will surely pick up his second All-Star.
3. Ronan Maher (Tipperary)
What an incredible year it has been for the Thurles Sarsfields man. He covered almost every defensive position for Tipperary while also chipping in with nine excellent points. Maher was arguably the man-of-the-match in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final.
4. Cathal Barrett (Tipperary)
Tipperary’s defence is usually called out as the weakest section of their team but it was nearly on par with their forward attack this year and Cathal Barrett was central to that. His presence was badly missed in the Munster final having picked up an injury in the previous game but he stormed back to form against Wexford and Kilkenny.
5. Brendan Maher (Tipperary)
This time last year, Brendan Maher was recovering from a cruciate injury but look what he achieved with Tipperary in 2019. He set the tone against Cork and carried that form throughout. Regardless of playing in the half-back line or as a man-marker, Maher was phenomenal.
6. Pádraig Walsh (Kilkenny)
Pádraig Walsh has been Mr Consistent for Kilkenny over the past number of seasons, regardless of where Brian Cody plays him. The Tullaroan man was in phenomenal form against Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final, nullifying the influence of the Treaty half-forward line.
7. Padraic Maher (Tipperary)
The three Mahers were in incredible form in the half-back line for Tipperary this summer and another solid year from former captain Padraic should see him earn his sixth All-Star award. The Thurles Sarsfields man was an exceptional leader in defence and also finished with a tally of five points.
8. Diarmuid O’Keeffe (Wexford)
Diarmuid O’Keeffe followed up his outstanding display in the Leinster final against Kilkenny with a terrific first half against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, dominating the midfield area. An exceptional season, capped off with 11 points, should see him awarded his first All-Star.
9. Noel McGrath (Tipperary)
Are there any superlatives left in the English language that haven’t been used to describe Noel McGrath? Another terrific season for the Loughmore man in which he highlighted every facet of his game from his defensive efforts to his outrageous skill. McGrath notched 1-19 this summer and is in line for a Hurler of the Year nomination.
10. Adrian Mullen (Kilkenny)
A wonderful debut season at senior level for Adrian Mullen. His outstanding performances for Ballyhale Shamrocks saw him earn a place in Cody’s starting team and he didn’t disappoint with 1-13 from play. The frontrunner for Young Hurler of the Year.
11. TJ Reid (Kilkenny)
TJ Reid once again proved that he is the backbone of this Kilkenny team with his magnificent performances throughout the year. The Ballyhale Shamrocks man finished the season with a tally of 5-83 while he was also influential from open play. Reid is heading for another Hurler of the Year nomination.
12. Lee Chin (Wexford)
Lee Chin was so influential for Wexford this summer on their way to their first Leinster title in 15 years. There is an argument to stick Tipperary’s John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer in here but the 26-year-old finished his season with 2-57 to his name. He should be rewarded with his first All-Star.
13. Aaron Gillane (Limerick)
Aaron Gillane was the constant threat for Limerick and because of that he often found himself the centre of opposition’s attention. Regardless, he finished the year with 3-50 while he also turned assistant for many of Limerick’s scores including Peter Casey’s goal in the Munster final. A second All-Star award is on the way.
14. Seamus Callanan (Tipperary)
Eight goals in eight games, what more do you need to say about Seamus Callanan? The Tipperary captain was lauded by management and players alike following his phenomenal season for the Premier County. He has been overlooked on three previous occasions but will he be the 2019 Hurler of the Year?
15. Patrick Horgan (Cork)
It’s still hard to believe that Horgan’s incredible contribution of 3-10 wasn’t enough to see Cork over the line against Kilkenny. His consistently high standards over the past number of years have seen him become one of the best Cork hurlers ever. An All-Star is the least the Glen Rovers man deserves this year.