With the National Hurling League brushed aside for another year, all roads now lead to the 2017 All-Ireland Championship. An eye will be kept on each hurler throughout the summer for the game’s top performers, one of which will receive the coveted Hurler of the Year accolade.
Undoubtedly marquee names such as TJ Reid, Seamus Callanan and Joe Canning will be strongly tipped to receive the award. However, with the talent pool in hurling as deep as ever, numerous twists in the tale are to be expected.
Here we take a look at some of the quality that will look to upset the odds.Bookmakers currently rank these hurlers as outsiders to achieve hurling’s top individual award for 2017.
1. John McGrath (14/1) [Odds via Paddy Power]
Arguably the Hurler of the Year so far, John McGrath lit up the NHL with predator-like instincts in front of goal. An All-Star in 2016, the Templemore native racked up 5-8 in his breakthrough season. The Premier County will be hopeful the rapid improvement of his form will continue long into the summer months.
2. David Burke (16/1)
With the Tribesmen expected to mount a serious challenge for Liam McCarthy in 2017, expect the St Thomas’ midfielder to fulfill a crucial role. Three times an All-Star, Burke’s ultimate goal will be to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand in September as he captains the county. For Galway to achieve this goal, they will need Burke firing on all cylinders, which can prove extremely tough for opposition to deal with.
3. Jamie Barron (66/1)
Awarded an All-Star in 2016, perhaps Barron’s importance to his side was best displayed in this year’s league. The Déise struggled when without Barron’s engine in midfield, as his ability to transition ball from defence to attack is unrivalled, and is one of the most consistent hurlers in today’s game. Derek McGrath’s troops will need Barron very much to the fore if they are to contest for All-Ireland glory.
4. Ronan Maher (40/1)
Very much a crucial component of the Tipperary team by now, Ronan stepped out of older brother Padraic’s shadow in 2016. At times unbeatable under the aerial ball, Maher played a key role in Tipperary’s successful 2016 campaign. The Thurles native has been the stand-out centre-back in the country of late and will be hopeful of continuing his great form of late.
5. Eoin Murphy (100/1)
Admittedly this one is a long shot, that being said, Murphy’s form this season has been sensational. Murphy’s ability to convert from range, as well as Kilkenny’s current defensive struggles however, could see the Glenmore net-minder have a very influential part to play in the cats aim to regain Liam this year.
If he can carry his league form into championship, who knows what could be in store for the 26-year-old.