Retirements are part and parcel of the off-season of any sport but 2014 has been a big one for players finishing or postponing their intercounty hurling careers.
Here is a starting line-up of players who will not take to the hurling fields in the 2015 championship, unless circumstances change themselves.
1. David Herity (Kilkenny)
The Kilkenny net-minder has hung up the hurley after an on and off career. He had stints at both number one and number sixteen for the Cats. He was first choice for part of the 2014 season when Eoghan Murphy sustained an injury but ended up being dropped for the All-Ireland final against Tipperary.
He boasts an impressive six All-Ireland medals and like most Kilkenny goalkeepers, received very little credit for his performances.
2. Stephen Hiney (Dublin)
Strong tributes were paid to Stephen Hiney following his retirement. To some people it seemed a bit extreme taking into account the calibre of player that has retired this winter but he was a long servant to Dublin hurling and played through many of the so-called darker years when Dublin hurling was a very minor force.
Their Leinster success in 2013 was testimony to players like Hiney who had a relatively good career.
3. JJ Delaney (Kilkenny)
Delaney is definitely one of the most notable retirees and will go down as one of the greatest hurlers of all time. His record and performances speak for themselves. If Delaney had a full career as a wing-back, then he could easily have gone down as the greatest of all time.
But needs were must for Kilkenny where he moved to full-back and continued to give outstanding displays. His aerial ability was incredible and his defensive skill-set was also of the highest order. He is possibly the best out and out defender of all time, and leaves a massive legacy behind.
4. Eoin Cadogan (Cork)
His intercounty hurling career may not be fully finished yet but for the moment Eoin Cadogan won’t be taking to the hurling fields for 2015, having decided to play solely for the Cork footballers next year. Having left the Cork hurling panel for 2013, he returned for 2014 but saw little game time.
He may have had something to offer having shown outstanding club form for Douglas, but the fact that he chose football makes it seem that his bridges may have been burnt with the Cork management having spoken out on their decision to axe Donal Óg Cusack in 2013.
5. Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)
‘The greatest hurler of his era, if not all time’ was the title given to Tommy Walsh on this website following his decision to retire from the Kilkenny panel. Despite the other retirement of JJ Delaney, Walsh was still the most complete hurler of the last fifteen years. His versatility shows this and that is why he could go down as the greatest.
Walsh had everything. One simply has to watch him to appreciate how good he was. At corner-back, wing-back, midfield and wing-forward, Walsh hurled to the highest quality. His achievements and ability will struggle to be matched by anybody ever again.
6. Brian Hogan (Kilkenny)
The Kilkenny man was another huge player during their successful era under Brian Cody. He was right at the heart of their defence, and in a team full of outstanding hurlers, Hogan was often one of the underrated ones.
He carried out his centre-back duties with great success and little fuss. His catches were the most noticeable part of his game and he also carried out all other parts of his game efficiently.
7. Jamie Nagle (Waterford)
Nagle is like Eoin Cadogan in that his involvement with Waterford has been cut short for the moment and may not necessarily be over. It was announced that he will not be part of the Waterford set-up for 2015 as management prepare to embark on a new era for Waterford hurling.
He was a tidy wing-back when played there having also had stints at midfield and in the forwards. He had some good games in 2014 so his omission was a slight surprise.
8. Rory Hanniffy (Offaly)
This is a name that has long been associated with Offaly hurling and as of 2015 will be no more. Gary and Rory Hanniffy were playing with Offaly during the successful days and Rory continued right up to 2014 where Offaly hurling is now at a real low.
They only stayed in the top tier of the hurling league and championships by the skin of their teeth. As they look to sort out their problems, they will do so without a player who gave the bones of fifteen years of service.
9. Stephen Molumphy (Waterford)
A former Waterford captain and often understated player announced his retirement from the Deise set-up this year. He missed most of the 2014 season through injury and also had Army commitments that saw him miss parts of other seasons.
He was a very hard-working player and a valuable member of the Waterford side. He captained them to Munster success and also received an All-Star during his career.
10. Seamus Prendergast (Waterford)
Seamus Prendergast was one of Waterford’s longest servants and can look back at a successful career that saw him become one of Ireland’s most improved hurlers. He was always a big presence and used his work rate and size to good effect. His skill levels and scoring improved hugely as his time in the Waterford shirt increased.
Like any Waterford hurler, there will be regrets about not winning an All-Ireland but Prendergast himself, as an individual player, can look back on a fine intercounty hurling career, where he seemed to maximise his own potential.
11. Padraic Collins (Clare)
This is probably the most controversial name that won’t take to the hurling fields in 2015. Collins was an All-Star who lit up the 2013 hurling championship. He was one of the country’s best forwards and looked ready to be an important member of a building Clare side.
He then took the decision to pursue intercounty football as well as hurling in 2014 in a move that was criticised by Clare hurling manager, Davy Fitzgerald. Collins was told to pick hurling or football for 2015, and surprisingly to most, Collins picked football.
So there will be no Podge Collins on the intercounty hurling scene for 2015. He may appear again sometime in the near future but as of 2015, his time in a Clare hurling jersey is on hold.
12. John O’Brien (Tipperary)
The Tipperary wing-forward was another underrated hurler. He may not have been the most stylish but he was very effective. O’Brien performed the required skills of a wing-forward very well over a consistent period of time.
His winning of primary possession in the air was as good as any in the country. He also knew where the goalposts were and provided many scores for the Premier.
13. Eoin Kelly (Tipperary)
The greatest inside forward this writer has ever seen play hurling. Eoin Kelly was an incredible hurler. He was being talked up since he was a teenager and made the full transition to intercounty hurling where he showcased his talent for over a decade.
He made his debut in 2000 when he was still a minor, and in his first year out of minor he was Tipperary’s main forward and scorer as they won the All-Ireland in 2001. Then from 2002 onwards Kelly showed absolute class. The strange thing for Eoin Kelly was that his best form occurred when Tipp were going through a baron period of success.
His 0-14 haul against Limerick in 2006 was one of his standout games. His 2-08 tally against Waterford in 2004 was another exceptional performance. Some of the quality of his scores were outrageous at times as his incredible wrist work used to avoid the tackles of most defenders.
It was fitting that he was the man to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup in 2010 as he had been the leader and the talisman of the Premier County. His final years were hampered by back trouble, which should not surprise many as he carried the whole of Tipperary hurling on his back for many, many years.
He is a huge loss to the game and will go down as one of Ireland’s greatest ever forwards.
14. Shane Walsh (Waterford)
Shane Walsh was another player that should have received a lot more credit than he got. He was not the most glamorous full-forward of all time but he was a very good goal scorer.
He was very good at popping up with some vital scores and also worked tirelessly as the first line of defence. He will be a loss to the Waterford side and provided a lot more for the Deise than people may think.
15. Aidan Fogarty (Kilkenny)
Fogarty was a hurler who completely threw any coaching manual out the window. Players are taught from a young age to hurl with their strong hand at the top of hurley and go from there but Fogarty gave hope to all the hand-switchers as he still managed to be an important member of the greatest hurling team of all time.
2006 was when he announced himself to the country with 1-3 from play in the All-Ireland final against Cork. For the next few years he was a very dangerous corner-forward. While he was not a certain regular for the rest of his Kilkenny career, he still remained an big part of the very successful Kilkenny squad.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena