Following Thursday’s piece on five players who will light up the Leinster SHC, Brian Barry gives us his Munster equivalent.
Cormac Murphy (Cork)
Now in his second season in the Cork squad, Cormac Muphy has made the wing-back position his own. After stints in the UCC Fitzgibbon Cup side, the Mallow man has done enough to impress Jimmy Barry-Murphy. You only need to look at his performances throughout the league to understand why. Murphy is the type of wing-back who loves to surge forward, and is good value for a couple of points in any game he plays.
Cork have had their problems in the backs, with particular focus on the 3 and 6 jerseys, but have had no such difficulties on the wing. JBM and Co. will need to do their homework to out-wit Waterford in the Munster semi-final, a five week turn-around from the League Final capitulation. The management may need to come up with a different strategy, but one thing is for sure: Cormac Murphy will be at the centre of any such plans.
Richie McCarthy (Limerick)
It is difficult to predict what this summer holds for the Treaty. Their league campaign was one of disappointment, having appeared in All-Ireland semi-finals the previous two seasons. With a date with Clare in the opening round of Munster looming, few can predict what Limerick side will show up.
But this side have been together a few seasons now, the 2013 Munster champions are united under TJ Ryan.
In Richie McCarthy and Séamus Hickey, they have two of the finest backs in the country. At right-corner back, Stephen Walsh has also been solid.
It may seem obvious to say that Richie McCarthy is the man to watch this year for Limerick, but if Limerick are to mount a serious challenge on all fronts this summer, McCarthy is somebody who will need to be at his imperious best. Similar to Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy, he can mark anybody out of a match, and is the rock this Limerick defence is built upon.
Tadhg De Burca (Waterford)
The fact that De Burca has started all but one game for Waterford in the Derek McGrath era says it all. While all the talk is surrounding Austin Gleeson following the league triumph, De Burca is the player who makes this Waterford system tick.
The 20 year-old is deployed as a sweeper in the system, shielding the full-back line. Positioning is undoubtedly key for such an unorthodox role. But it clear he his positional guile is right up there, having played full-forward at Harty Cup level, full-back at minor, and centre-back in the Fitzgibbon Cup.
De Burca is an intrinsic part of this exciting Waterford side, and looks set to have a big summer ahead with the Déise.
Ronan Maher (Tipperary)
Many of this Tipperary side have been on the road for several years now, but Eamon O’Shea has integrated some younger talent into the side this spring in an effort to find what they have been missing in recent years to make that final step. Michael Breen and John McGrath have proven their worth, while Ronan Maher, brother of Pádraic, has staked a major claim for championship inclusion.
The Thurles Sarsfields player made his debut at midfield against Galway in the qualifiers last year, but featured in the backs throughout the league. The 19 year-old is garnering just as much hype as his brother did at the same age, and the similarities do not stop there.
Ronan Maher has the potential to become one of the country’s finest hurlers. Tipperary came up agonisingly short of All-Ireland success last year, and have learned how fine the margin may be. Surely the addition of Ronan Maher as a central player must help bridge such a gap.
Shane Golden (Clare)
While the majority of this Clare team is quite young, they are by no means the ‘nearly’ men, holding All-Ireland medals at u21 and senior level. Pondering who can add to the side this year is difficult.
Shane Golden is one for whom 2013 came too early. Having been called into the squad in 2014, the forward made his league debut that spring. Davy Fitz integrated the Sixmilebridge man further this league, and he could be set to take on a central role for the Banner this summer.
At half-forward, Golden can pick off scores, and is a forward of genuine quality, as he showed in helping Clare to u21 success in 2011 and 2012. Clare appeared stale in 2014, and this spring offered little hope for the Banner faithful. If Clare are to reach the heights of 2013 once more, they will need some of their stars to raise their game, and Golden may be one to watch.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.