The interprovincial championships take place over the weekend, and impressive squads have been announced. However, there is a feeling of bitterness towards this tournament in many quarters. It is a shadow of the Railway Cup from 50 years ago. If there is no room on the calendar to run it properly, why run it at all?
This got us thinking here at Pundit Arena HQ, and despite the impressive Munster squad that manager Anthony Daly has named, it is still short of a full compliment. This owes to the fact that the Waterford squad are on a team holiday, while many other stars have made themselves unavailable for a variety of reasons.
If, in a parallel GAA universe, the Railway Cup was filling 82,000 seats in Croke Park, what would a full strength Munster team look like?
This selection is, of course, our own opinion. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.
1. Darren Gleeson (Tipperary)
Anthony Nash certainly stakes a claim, but the Tipperary net-minder has shown over the past two seasons to be one of the best in the business. His distribution from puck outs is second to none, as seen in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final against Cork and 2015 Munster semi-final against Limerick. His showing last August against Galway proved he is the rightful heir to Brendan Cummins’ throne.
2. Seamus Hickey (Limerick)
The newly elected chairman of the GPA did not have the best of years in 2015, but neither did the majority of the Limerick team. However, he is one of the best in the country on his day, and can do a job on the country’s finest forwards.
3. Richie McCarthy (Limerick)
Another Treaty man who had a tough time of it last summer, notably against Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds. However, he is not the first man to find the going tough against Séamus Callanan, and he will be back stronger in 2016. Again, when on form, he is the best in the business.
4. David McInerney (Clare)
The 2013 All-Star has shown that he is a classy operator, and gets the nod for us ahead of the likes of Cathal Barrett and Stephen McDonnell. Clare have only recorded one win since lifting Liam McCarthy two years ago, but McInerney is stil revered as a quality corner back. The Banner will be back stronger in 2016, and McInerney could lead the way.
5. Austin Gleeson (Waterford)
What can you say about the young star? He led by example all year as the Déise won the National Hurling League, before reaching the Munster final and All-Ireland semi-final. He is one of the most skillful hurlers in Munster, and is only going to get better.
6. Tadhg De Burca (Waterford)
When Derek McGrath implemented his style of play upon this Waterford team, De Burca was the corner stone. His fielding, distribution, and downright determination have seen his stock rise over the past year. Like Gleeson, he is a player on the up.
7. Padraic Maher (Tipperary)
The Tipperary and Thurles Sarsfields colossus has long been regarded as one of the country’s best defenders. Whether at fullback or across the half-back line, his physicality can be telling, and will be one of the key men for the Michael Ryan era.
8. Conor Ryan (Clare)
Another Clare man who won an All-Star in 2013, Ryan is a workhorse in the middle of the park. Davy Fitz has opted to play the Cratloe man at centre-back in recent years, but his class and versatility shines through.
9. Tony Kelly (Clare)
The 2013 Hurler of the Year has thrived despite the Banner’s struggles. Against Offaly last year, he showed how devastating he can be, and last year’s Fitzgibbon Cup triump was another example of his class. He is well versed to to playing midfield, and is among the country’s best hurlers.
10. Conor Lehane (Cork)
The Midleton flyer is dangerous and can hurt teams singlehandedly. The pace, power and skills he possesses are an asset. In truth, he was the difference as the Rebels got by Clare in Thurles last July.
11. Séamus Harnedy (Cork)
The St Ita’s clubman is a perfect target for puck outs, and his fielding ability is better than any half-forward in the country. He has somewhat plateaued since his breakthrough season of 2013, but this is at a high level, and he often comes in for special attention from opposition backs,
12. John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer (Tipperary)
Bubbles was marked out of the game in the All-Ireland semi final against Galway last summer, but showed against Limerick and Waterford that he is growing into one of the most feared forwards in the game. He is strong, and is scoring more goals each year.
13. Shane Dowling (Limerick)
The Limerick marksman gets in ahead of his county teammate Graeme Mulcahy for us. The 22 year-old has been instrumental in guiding Na Piarsaigh to a third Munster club title in five years, and will be keen to get Limerick back challenging for honours in 2016.
14. Séamus Callanan (Tipperary)
The Hurler of the Year award is generally given to a player who wins the All-Ireland, which is a crying shame as Callanan was fully deserving of the crown in 2015. His performance against Galway was one of the great scoring displays in Croke Park.
15. Maurice Shanahan (Waterford)
For the 15th place on this side, it is a straight shootout between Maurice Shanahan, Phillip O’Mahony, and Conor McGrath. In an impossibly tough choice, we’ve opted for Shanahan. His performances in 2015 as the Déise won the league and reached an All-Ireland semi-final were immense.
What changes would you make to this side? Let us know, as always, on Pundit Arena GAA’s Facebook page.
Stay tuned tomorrow for our Leinster selection.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.