We covered the football earlier in the week and now it is time to predict who will receive the hurling All-Star awards for 2014.
We gave our own equivalent of the all-stars when the season had concluded and had one or two controversial inclusions or exclusions as others might say. Here is who Sean Cremin believes will be rewarded at the banquet on Friday night.
1) – Darren Gleeson
Gleeson definitely seems to be the front runner for the goalkeeping position with Eoghan Murphy being his only competition. Murphy did make some important saves in the big games, but the Tipperary man probably had a better season overall.
The way in which his performances were heavily analysed should also work in his favour, but overall he is justified for inclusion having finished the season strongly.
2) – Cathal Barrett
In terms of overall selection, it would be thought that number two is a straight battle between Cathal Barrett and Paul Murphy with the other two positions being pretty much tied up already.
The fact that Murphy was on the All-Ireland winning side could see him edge this race, but overall it has to be said that an all-star team should not be picked without Cathal Barrett. He was absolutely outstanding this year in his debut season and was the best corner back in the country.
3) – JJ Delaney
He was the first controversial omission in the Pundit Arena selection and we still remain firm on our thoughts that Richie McCarthy was the best full-back in Ireland this year.
However, one has to imagine that JJ Delaney’s hook on Seamus Callanan in the replay against Tipperary will help to sway the vote in his direction. It is also highly unlikely that two Limerick players will get into the full-back line. So while we fail to agree, we do think Delaney will get an all-star.
4) – Seamus Hickey
He was a terribly unlucky and another questionable player left out of the Pundit Arena 15 but he will almost certainly get a GAA GPA All-Star award.
He had a great year and it is hard to argue against his inclusion. We felt he just happened to be the third best corner-back in Ireland this year but he will more than likely be left corner-back on the team of 2014 following a string of excellent performances.
5) – Brendan Maher
The Tipperary captain had an excellent year and should get a place in the half-back line. He was a vital part of their side and showed great quality of performance and leadership throughout the year.
He finally returned to his best form in 2014 and excelled at both wing-back and centre-back.
6) – Padraic Maher
He may have struggled at times at the start of the year but from mid-season through to the end, his performances were of such a high standard that he surely has to get an all-star.
Centre-back is the place where he probably fits in best, but himself and Brendan Maher could easily be switched. He also returned to his best form in 2014 and showed that he is one of the very best.
7) – Cillian Buckley
Buckely went about his business very astutely all year long and then really showed his class in the All-Ireland final replay. He was the type of player who a lot of people only started to recognise on the back of Kilkenny winning the All-Ireland but he was excellent at half-back all year.
He was a very consistent performer and a vital part of the Kilkenny side. He filled the boots of Tommy Walsh with ease and will almost definitely get an All-Star.
8) – Richie Hogan
The midfield area is very competitive, with a huge number of candidates and some very good performers not even getting nominated for awards.
The one certainty at midfield though is Richie Hogan. Hogan was magnificent for Kilkenny this year. He was the key link between defence and attack and provided a range of scores and scoring chances for his team. He was the stand out hurler in the country this year.
9) Conor Fogarty
The second midfield position is very open and this shambolic process of rewarding counties as opposed to players may come into play. There is by no means an anti-Lee Chin campaign being driven by this website but if he were to receive an All-Star it would be nothing but a joke.
There were at least seven midfielders better than him and being rewarded simply because Wexford caused a few surprises is completely wrong. Conor Fogarty will probably get the nod due to having a similar campaign to Cillian Buckely (being excellent but underrated), but don’t rule anything out for the number nine jersey.
10.) – TJ Reid
The three half-forward positions look to be already handed out. The only player who has a chance of breaking the prediction is Cork’s Conor Lehane but it seems impossible not to include the three players predicted unless there is a positional change.
TJ Reid is a Hurler of the Year nominee and played a vital role for Kilkenny as they reclaimed the All-Ireland title.
11.) – Patrick Maher
Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher also had an outstanding season and should be a shoe-in for the centre-forward role.
He returned to form but also showed that there is more to his game than hard work. His scoring and finishing improved a lot and his ball winning was also excellent.
12) John O’Dwyer
John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer also had an excellent year and surely will be included in the All-Star team. His skill levels and point taking were definitely one of the highlights of the summer.
His range of shooting was exceptional and he caused huge trouble for all opponents this year. A final tally of 2-19 from play all against very high quality opposition in a clear indication of how good he was.
13) – Colin Fennelly
Colin Fennelly went one point better then Bubbles scoring 2-20 from play in this year’s championship.
He had a very good year and probably made sure of his all-star with his performance in the All-Ireland final replay when he went full-forward and got some vital scores from play. He looks to be nailed on to make the team but does face competition.
14) – Seamus Callanan
No contest here. Callanan was by far and away the best full-forward in the country. 9-50 was his total scoring record with 9-16 of that coming from play.
He had received justified criticism in the past but he responded this year to show that he is on par with the very best. If Tipp had managed to win the All-Ireland he would be Hurler of the Year but he will probably miss out on that and have to make do with an All-Star.
15) – Alan Cadogan
The last corner-forward position is a debatable one. Shane Dowling, Alan Cadogan, Conor McDonald are probably all in with a legitimate shout, and that is assuming that Colin Fennelly does get in.
The majority of people are going for Shane Dowling which is correct. He was the best out of the three but one can’t help but feel that Cork will get some recognition, having won Munster.
It is not the correct criteria for honouring players but we are predicting that Alan Cadogan will make his way into the team as Cork’s one representative.
Hurler of the Year – Richie Hogan
This is a straight contest between Richie Hogan and Seamus Callanan. While TJ Reid is also nominated, it is between two players. The fact that Kilkenny won the All-Ireland probably edges the race in Richie Hogan’s favour.
He was outstanding and there can be no argument against him receiving the accolade. Callanan would also be a worthy winner, but we are predicting Hogan to be honoured.
Young Hurler of the Year – Cathal Barrett
There is stiff competition for this award also with Cathal Barrett, Shane Dowling and Conor McDonald all nominated. The fact that Alan Cadogan was not nominated shows how strong the competition was.
But Cathal Barrett was the pick of the bunch and this should see him top the poll. The way things have gone in these selections, he may even find himself left out of the All-Star selection and be compensated with Young Hurler of the Year.
He was the best corner-back and best young hurler in Ireland this year and that is all that should matter, but who knows.
So there is our hurling prediction. It is different to our own Pundit Arena selection where we simply looked at putting in who we felt were the best players in their respective positions without taking a team’s fortunes into account.
But we do think that Cork will get one based on their Munster campaign and we would not rule out a token award to Wexford either. We will have to wait and see.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.