Many a great hurler has finished their career without a Celtic Cross so here at Pundit Arena HQ, we’re attempting to give them some recognition for their efforts. Sean Cremin discusses our selection. Here’s Part 2 of The Barren XV.
8. Ken McGrath – Waterford
Ken McGrath was a great player in many positions and could have been put anywhere in this selection. Midfield is where he is best accommodated when all players were taken into account.
A lot of people will argue that McGrath is the greatest player to finish a career without an All-Ireland victory to his name.
He was an outstanding hurler, inspirational to the Déise for a long time in a variety of positions. He was excellent as a forward and midfielder for the first few years of his career and showed most of his class in 2002 when he scored in the last minute against Cork in the Munster semi-final before firing over seven points from play in the Munster final.
His move to centre-back saw him further his legacy as a top class player, and he will go down as one of the greats.
9. Eoin Kelly – Waterford
Eoin Kelly was not the most popular of players during his career and had plenty of moments of controversy in the Waterford jersey He spent time playing at midfield and in the forwards but in terms of raw ability and performance he will have to go down as one of the best hurlers who failed to secure an All-Ireland medal.
He enjoyed a number of top class performances and was a major part of the Waterford side since 2002.
He was an All-Star in his first season in 2002 where he burst onto the scene and his form continued for a number of years. He was a major part of Waterford’s push in 2004. His form continued as Waterford remained competitive in the following years.
He was outstanding at full-forward in 2008 and was Waterford’s best performer in their only All-Ireland final appearance.
Half Forward Line
10. Dan Shanahan – Waterford
‘There was a man called Shanahan from the town of Lismore’ was the song the Waterford fans sang as their goal-scorer supreme continuously popped up with vital three pointers to sucker punch team after team. Dan Shanahan was an outstanding forward and one of few players to be crowned Hurler of the Year playing for a team that had not lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup.
He burst onto the scene in 1998 like many other Waterford players but seemed to slip off the scene for a number of years before rebounding even more emphatically in 2004. A hat-trick against Clare was followed by two goals against Tipperary and then he finished with 1-3 against Cork as Waterford won one of the most memorable Munster championships in years.
He was still a good player for Waterford for the next few years but 2007 was the year of Dan The Man. He finished the year with 8-12 (all from play) as Waterford endured possibly their most heartbreaking year of all. He was named the best hurler in Ireland that year and will have go down as one of the best not to win an All-Irleand.
11. Joe Canning – Galway
The second Canning from Galway in the line-up is Joe, who we all know is still currently playing and has time to win an All-Ireland title. But for the moment he has to be considered one of the best hurlers not to have the biggest accolade in the game.
He was close in 2012 and it would have been a Canning-led All-Ireland victory, but the last few seasons suggest that he may be getting further away.
He burst onto the senior scene in 2008 where he was sensational against Cork, scoring 2-12 and showing everyone that he had the potential to possibly be the best hurler of all time. He hasn’t gone on to be that good, yet, but has still shown glimpses of what he can do.
He is a victim of Galway’s inability to put a consistent string of performances together. But in terms of sheer ability, Canning is definitely one the best hurlers without an All-Ireland medal.
12. Ollie Moran – Limerick
Moran is the second Limerick man in the side and was another outstanding servant to hurling who failed to get his hands on the Liam McCarthy Cup.
Moran was an outstanding half-forward and did everything he possibly could to lead Limerick to the title in 2007 when they came up short to Kilkenny but Moran was outstanding that year and got a great goal in the final that gave Limerick hope.
He played the game with his heart on his sleeve and deserved more recognition for his hurling career. He also had a stint as a half-back during his playing days and showed good competency as a defender.
Some of his goals as a half-forward were excellent most notably his goal that got Limerick back into the game against Waterford in 2001 and the first time pull against Tipperary in 2002.
Full Forward Line
13. Setanta Ó hAilpín – Cork
We are expecting this inclusion to get criticised but as far as we are concerned, the man could have been one of the greatest hurlers of his generation, if not all time, had his hurling career continued.
Setanta Ó hAilpín may have only had one season as a senior intercounty hurler, but he was incredible that year and looked set to be hurling’s first superstar since DJ Carey.
Not many hurlers have stood 6 foot 5 inches and shown the power, pace, strength, athleticism and skill that the Cork man showed in his one season career. He was phenomenal. He carried a variety of threats and his scoring record and amount of frees won spoke for themselves.
When he left to play professional football in Australia, many felt Cork’s All-Ireland hopes were leaving with him.
Cork went onto to win the next two All-Ireland titles and let there be no doubt that Setanta Ó hAilpín would have remained a key part of the side. It was a shame that his career ended so early and it also ended without an All-Ireland title, although he came very close in 2003.
14. Paul Flynn – Waterford
Flynn was definitely one of the most naturally gifted hurlers of his day and like many of the aforementioned Waterford hurlers, he was worthy of an All-Ireland medal but his record does not see one accredited to him.
He was very much an old-fashioned hurler who had skill levels and finishing ability that were second to none. He was not blessed with blistering pace but he made up for this elsewhere.
He led their attack in 1998 and in the earlier years before the likes of Eoin Kelly, Dan Shanahan and John Mullane began to take the weight off his shoulders. He still continued to show his class.
There are endless examples but the following goal was probably what summed up Paul Flynn more than anything else. He always had that ‘expect the unexpected’ streak in him and the skill levels to try such audacious things on a hurling field.
15. John Mullane – Waterford
Another Waterford man finishes the first XV and it is certain to say that John Mullane was a player worthy of winning an All-Ireland medal. Mullane was an outstanding hurler who caused trouble for the best defenders in Ireland and delivered in almost every game he played. He epitomised the hard working and dedicated nature of the Waterford hurlers.
He lit up Páirc Uí Chaoímh on his debut in 2001 before leaving the field early with an injury. 2002 saw him as a vital cog as Waterford ended their Munster famine. 2003 saw a hat-trick in a Munster final loss to Cork. Many say that Waterford would have got to an All-Ireland in 2004 had Mullane not missed the game against Kilkenny through suspension.
His form continued and his scoring record from play was simply incredible. 15-133 in 49 championship games leaves an average of over three points a game and this was a player who never took frees for Waterford.
His pace and striking was as good as any and many would describe him as one of the best forwards hurling has seen from open play. He really was a special talent.
Danny Sutcliffe – Dublin
He is another current player whose age prevented him from being put in the starting XV. Sutcliffe is an outstanding talent who still has plenty of years on his side to make sure he is never considered for a team like this. In his three year career so far he has been one of the game’s leading players and is the stand out half-forward in the country right now.
Diarmuid Lyng – Wexford
Diarmuid ‘Gizzy’ Lyng was a fine hurler who could execute some the skills of hurling as good as anybody else. His free-taking, sideline cuts and general hurling around the field were excellent. He was part of some decent Wexford teams but none that really threatened to win an All-Ireland.
Stephen Molumphy – Waterford
Waterford were definitely the most represented county in the starting XV and Stephen Molumphy was very close to getting in. His style of play set the standard for the work rate of others and he also complemented the more skilful players very well.
Liam Rushe – Dublin
Like Sutcliffe, time is on Liam Rushe’s side to stop him being considered for a team like this in a few years time. But at the moment he is one of the best players in the game without an All-Ireland medal. He is now fully at home at centre-back and is a very commanding player in a pivotal position.
Damien Hayes – Galway
The recently retired Damien Hayes failed to win an All-Ireland with Galway despite numerous good seasons but he did manage to secure multiple All-Ireland titles with his club, Portumna.
Securing three all-star awards without an All-Ireland medal is a sign of his quality.He was an excellent forward for many years. He was very dangerous and caused defenders a lot of problems.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.
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