The All-Ireland final is usually the deciding game in terms of who wins Hurler Of The Year but after this weekend’s superb action, we can’t help but think about the five potential candidates for the award.
1. Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)
2014 Hurler Of The Year Richie Hogan is the bookies favourite to claim the coveted accolade once again this year. Despite only playing two and a half matches, Hogan has displayed his sheer class and skill. After suffering a broken hand injury, Hogan missed Kilkenny’s Leinster semi-final win over Dublin and failed to prove his fitness to start in the Leinster final. However, Hogan came on at half-time against Galway and lead the Cats to victory, scoring five second-half points. In both clashes against the Déíse, Hogan was hugely influential, scoring four points on both occasions.
2.Pádraic Maher (Tipperary)
Pádraic Maher’s younger brother Ronan has helped massively with Maher’s displays this year. With Ronan moving to centre back, it has allowed the 2010 All-Ireland medal winner to move out to his favoured wing-back position. Here, Maher has more freedom to express and let his hurling do the talking. His physicality, power and raw aggression have seen Maher become one of the most feared defenders in the game. His performances this year against Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway have been simply outstanding.
3.Austin Gleeson (Waterford)
Waterford’s season has come to an end but Gleeson’s chances of claiming Hurler Of The Year are still very strong. The Mount Sion man has been the standout hurler so far this year and his performances at centre-forward against Kilkenny were simply outstanding. Gleeson has a unique and unrivalled athletic and hurling ability. At the tender age of just 21, Gleeson is in line to pick up Young Hurler Of The Year and a Hurler Of The Year award could yet be on the cards too. Gleeson has lit up the championship.
4.Seamus Callanan (Tipperary)
Callanan’s display yesterday was a disappointing one but his chances of claiming Hurler Of The Year remain intact. A huge performance in the final and a Tipperary win should see Callanan claim the coveted award. Callanan’s Munster championship displays were sublime, scoring a total of 2-25 including 1-11 in the Munster final hammering of Waterford. The Drom and Inch star has the remarkable potential to turn any game on its head.
5.Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)
The second Danesfort man to make this list, Murphy is simply a fantastic player. Positioned at corner-back, he doesn’t get half the credit he deserves. Murphy was nominated for Hurler Of The Year after Kilkenny’s All-Ireland winning campaign in 2012 but he lost out to team-mate Henry Shefflin on that occasion. Murphy’s ability to influence a game from the corner-back position is admirable while still managing to contain his man and keep the Kilkenny defence as compact as possible.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena