One game remains, barring a draw at least, in this year’s All-Ireland hurling championship. With only two collective teams remaining involved, the individual end of year awards have started to be debated. We have seen the influence an All-Ireland final can have on selection, but let’s kick off the endless debate anyway.
Here we talk through the contenders and look at how our team would look if it were picked at this current moment.
There are three strong contenders for the goalkeeping position. 2016 saw a turn in fortunes after a number of questionable years for hurling goalkeepers. Despite a cracking league campaign from Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy, the trio of Cork’s Anthony Nash, Waterford’s Stephen O’Keeffe and Galway’s Colm Callanan are all in with a realistic chance of being honoured.
These pages have been vocal in the lack of recognition that has been given to Stephen O’Keeffe over the years and based on performances so far this season, we feel that this is the year that justice will be served.
Verdict: Stephen O’Keeffe.
Full Back Line
This year’s backline selection promises to be the most debatable yet. The main reason being is that the numbers on the backs of many defenders have meant little or nothing for a number of teams. Teams have adopted sweepers, which means the players have not had a direct opponent but they have still delivered sterling performances.
The Galway trio of Adrian Tuohy, Daithí Burke and John Hanbury have all impressed. Noel Connors and Conor Gleeson have been the standout man-markers. Wexford’s Liam Ryan was outstanding. Damien Cahalane got plaudits instead of the endless abuse he had been receiving while Clare’s David McInerney was also back to his best form.
Verdict: Liam Ryan, Daithí Burke, Conor Gleeson
Half Back Line
This a very competitive line as always, with many stand out performers. The use of sweepers will spark major argument here as some will debate whether they warrant inclusion or not. But with one massive game remaining, it would be no surprise to see either Tadhg de Búrca or Daragh Fives in the final selection, while the ever consistent Phillip Mahony receives little recognition.
Elsewhere the Galway line of Padraig Mannion, Gearóid McInerney and Aidan Harte have been compared to the infamous Pete Finnerty, the late Tony Keady and Gerry McInerney. Tipperary’s Padraic Maher excelled in 2017. Wexford’s Diarmuid O’Keeffe appeared everywhere on the field as did Matthew O’Hanlon. Mark Ellis, Christopher Joyce improved for Cork while Mark Coleman lit up the Munster championship.
Verdict: Padraig Mannion, Gearóid McInerney, Padraic Maher
There have been some very good performers at midfield in this year’s championship. The man that has shone above all thus far is Waterford’s Jamie Barron, who is now one of the leading contenders for Hurler of the Year. His goal against Kilkenny, followed by a brace against Cork have put him in the driving sight for the number eight shirt.
The other spot has a number of contenders. Cork’s Daragh Fitzgibbon really showed promise in 2017. Wexford’s Lee Chin lead their revival from an attacking sense. Kevin Moran has used his experience at vital stages to come up with key plays for Waterford. While the Galway duo of Jonny Coen and David Burke have one huge game left to stake a claim, with Coen being particularly impressive this year.
Verdict: Jamie Barron, Kevin Moran
Half Forward Line
As we move up to the business end of the field, the heavy weight names begin to get people talking. How can we fir them all in? Well Joe Canning is pretty much certain to receive individual accolades and he has been ably assisted in the Tribe’s half-forward by the unsung Joseph Cooney.
For Waterford, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh has been outstanding, while Austin Gleeson may be playing in patches, but these patches are the differnce between Waterford winning and losing games. Cork’s Conor Lehane was unplayable in the opening two games of Cork’s season but oppositions shut him down in his last two outings.
TJ Reid was the one positive out of Kilkenny’s season. Cork’s Seamus Harnedy was back to his 2013 all-star form, while Tipperary’s Dan McCormack and Noel McGrath also had very respectable seasons.
Verdict: Michael Walsh, Joe Canning, Austin Gleeson
Full Forward Line
Two positions here look to be sewn up already by Cork’s Patrick Horgan and Galway’s Conor Whelan. Both have thrived for their respective sides. Whelan has shown a maturity far beyond his years and has shown to be complete inside-forward even at the age of 20. Horgan was brilliant for Cork. His scoring record was never in doubt but his all round contributions from play in ball winning, support play and creativity saw him have an outstanding year.
The last spot is very much up for grabs with the final game of the year approaching. Tipperary’s trio of Seamus Callanan, John McGrath and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer may have lacked consistency, but they all showed glimpses of brilliance at different stages. Cork’s Alan Cadogan also put his hand up.
But looking at the final, a number of Galway forwards can still stake a claim. Conor Cooney, Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion could all play their way in. Maurice Shanahan and Shane Bennett are also in with a chance.
Verdict: Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Patrick Horgan.
2017 Hurling All-Stars on August 15, 2017;
- Stephen O’Keeffe – Waterford
- Liam Ryan – Wexford
- Daithí Burke – Galway
- Conor Gleeson – Waterford
- Padraig Mannion – Galway
- Gearóid McInerney – Galway
- Padraic Maher – Tipperary
- Jamie Barron – Waterford
- Kevin Moran – Waterford
- Michael Walsh – Waterford
- Joe Canning – Galway
- Austin Gleeson – Waterford
- Conor Whelan – Galway
- Conor Cooney – Galway
- Patrick Horgan – Cork
One massive game awaits which could drastically change this selection. Conor and Austin Gleeson’s participation in that game are in doubt. While at least 28 other names have a chance to make a name themselves at the right time of the season.
Listen here to our full reaction to Waterford and Cork, as well our look ahead this weekend’s All-Ireland football semi-final between Kerry and Mayo on The 16th Man with Dominos.