An exciting Allianz Hurling League campaign has come to a close with Limerick winning their first title in 22 years following a comprehensive victory over Waterford in Croke Park.
The structure of this year’s league was altered to make way for the redefined groups as of 2020 and there was no relegation from Division 1A. However, it did not make the league any less competitive with only three points separating the top team in Division 1A from the bottom.
Here is our Team of the League from another memorable campaign.
1. Stephen O’Keeffe (Waterford)
The Waterford netminder was in top form during the Allianz League with a number of fine saves, particularly in the games against Galway and Limerick. The All Ireland champions had his puck out strategy well marshalled in the final but prior to that, they were a key part of Waterford’s success.
2. Tom Condon (Limerick)
An injury to Mike Casey meant a return to the starting 15 for Tom Condon and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He has been consistently solid throughout the league as he appeared to roll back the years but was particularly impressive against Kilkenny when he also captained the side.
3. Eoghan O’Donnell (Dublin)
Eoghan O’Donnell is the most in-form full-back in the country at present. The Whitehall-Colmcille man has been Dublin’s stand out performer during the league with his physicality proving more than a match for some of the country’s best forwards. He was outstanding against Tipperary in the quarter-final.
4. Sean Finn (Limerick)
Though named at corner-back in our team, Sean Finn operated at full-back for Limerick during the league in the absence of Casey and done a superb job. He is not the tallest of operators but he is quick and hugely physical and he used that to his advantage. He was a loss at corner-back however.
5. Diarmuid Byrnes (Limerick)
Diarmuid Byrnes had a quiet game in the league final but prior to that, he had an outstanding campaign. We are all aware of the defensive capabilities of the Limerick half-back line but during the league, he added an attacking element to his game as he showed he wasn’t afraid to take his own scores.
6. Tim O’Mahoney (Cork)
It was a disappointing league campaign for Cork overall but John Meyler cannot be disappointed with the performance of Tim O’Mahoney at centre-back. In their win against Limerick, he showed just how shrewd he is at reading the play and he has really added to the defensive side of his game this season.
7. Kevin Moran (Waterford)
Kevin Moran’s league campaign will probably be remembered solely for the thundering shoulder challenge on Joe Canning that stopped him in his tracks on the way to goal, but his overall contribution to Waterford should not be overlooked. A solid defender, and a leader who has stood up when necessary.
8. Jamie Barron (Waterford)
Jamie Barron has been outstanding throughout the league for Waterford and looks almost back to his best. His pace is incredible, he is strong in both defence and attack and, crucially, he is calm when in possession. Barron had a quiet game in the final but no doubt he’ll be a vital player come championship.
9. Tony Kelly (Clare)
Kelly was controversially sent off in their game against Tipperary and thus served a one-match man but in every game he played, he proved his worth to Clare. The Ballyea man is yet to hit the heights of 2013 but he delighted hurling fans with glimpses of his outrageous skill and scoring ability throughout the league.
10. Gearoid Hegarty (Limerick)
We are all aware of the danger posed by the Limerick half-forward line and their role in the team’s game plan and while they had a quiet league overall, Hegarty was brilliant throughout. The St Pats man is clearly more comfortable in his scoring ability while his work rate is second to none as shown in the final.
11. Joe Canning (Galway)
Canning was the ever-consistent figure for Galway this league campaign in a forward line that failed to fire. As was the case in previous years, he dragged Galway back into contention in tight games and that was what he was trying to do when he picked up an injury against Waterford. Canning is not just a loss to Galway but to hurling and we hope to see him back in action at some stage during the championship.
12. Danny Sutcliffe (Dublin)
It was no fluke that Dublin finished top of Division 1B but their ability is still being slightly underestimated in hurling circles. Danny Sutcliffe has been one of the country’s most impressive forwards throughout the league proving a handful for defenders to handle with his pace and movement.
13. Aaron Gillane (Limerick)
Though he was one of Limerick’s outstanding performers last year, Aaron Gillane has improved his game even more in 2019. He has scored 2-45 throughout the league having been left out entirely for two games. The Patrickswell man is able to win his own ball, he can physically match his markers and he registers some outrageous scores.
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14. Stephen Bennett (Waterford)
Bennett registered a whopping 4-85 throughout Waterford’s league campaign and proved an almost unstoppable force to deal with. He struck up a good partnership with his brother in the full-forward line and Waterford will need both Shane and Stephen firing from all cylinders in the Munster Championship.
15. Peter Duggan (Clare)
Again, we have pulled a player out of position here in order to fit him in but Peter Duggan picked up from where he left off after an outstanding year in 2018. On top of the outrageous scorelines he was putting up for his college, LIT, in the Fitzgibbon Cup, Duggan also posted 2-26 for Clare in their five games.