As the hurling season is drawing to a close and the All-Ireland final pairings have been decided, talk of all-star awards will undoubtedly commence. There is no point in trying to predict the team now, as a lot will boil down to who performs well or who wins the final. But here is who is in contention at the moment.
Goalkeeper: Darren Gleeson / David Herity/ Nickie Quaid / Stephen O’Keefe
There has not really been a stand out performer between the sticks this season. The All-Ireland final will give both Darren Gleeson and David Herity a chance to claim the number one shirt, despite the fact that both have struggled at times this year. Saying that, Gleeson did perform very well against Cork.
Prior to Gleesons’s performance agaisnt Cork, Limerick’s Nickie Quaid was in the driving seat. Waterford’s Stephen O’Keefe had an excellent year but Wateford’s early exit makes him a real outsider. This one will probably come down to who performs best in the final
Front Runner: Darren Gleeson
Corner Backs: Cathal Barrett / Paul Murphy / Jackie Tyrell / Seamus Hickey
The two corner-back positions are highly competitive with all four players mentioned above being worthy winners of all-star awards. Cathal Barrett has gone about his business very astutely all season. He has consistently beaten opponents and hurled a lot of ball in every game.
Seamus Hickey had an outstanding season for Limerick. He scored the insurance point from corner-back in their first game against Tipperary and put in five star performances against Wexford and Kilkenny. It is hard to see Hickey not getting in.
And then there is the Kilkenny’s defensive duo of Paul Murphy and Jackie Tyrell both of whom displayed all their steal and class in the game with Limerick. They still have the biggest game of the year to play in and could really put their name forward for an all-star.
Front Runners: Impossible to call, all four would be worthy winners
Full Back: JJ Delaney / Richie McCarthy / James Barry
Like Tyrell and Murphy, JJ Delaney has shown all of his experience in droves this season. He will mark Tipperary’s main man, Seamus Callanan, in the All-Ireland and if he can curtail his influence, then he will be the front runner. But as Shane O’Neill learned last year, concession of scores can put you out, so Delaney is no certainty yet.
Richie McCarthy had another outstanding year in the Limerick number three jersey. It is unlikely that two Limerick players will make the full-back line so it could come down to McCarthy or Hickey depending on how the All-Ireland final goes. James Barry has done very well since moving to full-back for Tipperary and has an outside chance.
Front Runner: JJ Delaney
Wing Backs: Andrew Shore / Brendan Maher / Padraic Maher / Cillian Buckley
The wing-back positions are up for grabs with the Maher’s from Tipperary in line for honours. The pair looked set to be future stars of the game back in 2009 but both had two poor seasons before returning to form this season. They have been outstanding this year and one of the main reasons for the Premier revival.
Wexford will more than likely get one all-star award but the position could depend on where certain people can fit in. Andrew Shore had a very good year at wing-back and could find himself in the team. Cillian Buckely has been a huge plus since moving to wing-back for Kilkenny and a good All-Ireland final could see him get in.
Front Runners: Brendan Maher and Padraic Maher
Centre Back: Wayne McNamara / Mark Ellis / Brian Hogan / Brendan Maher
The number six jersey is another competitive area. The aforementioned Brendan Maher could also be moved in here making him a contender. Kilkenny’s Brian Hogan also has another game to play. He was not playing at the start of the year but has made a difference since his reintroduction.
Wayne McNamara has been the one of the best and definitely the most underrated centre-back in Ireland for the last two years and would definitely be a justified selection. Like Wexford, Cork will probably get one honour as Munster champions and Mark Ellis was definitely one of their best performers. He solved a problem position for the Rebels and could get an all-star for his efforts.
Front Runner: Mark Ellis
Midfield: Richie Hogan / James Ryan / Paul Browne / James Woodlock / Shane McGrath / Lee Chin
Richie Hogan should be an absolute certainty for a place in the team. He has been the best hurler in the country so far this year and looks right at home in a new position at midfield. The other position is right up for grabs. Clare’s Conor Ryan ended up at midfield last year despite not playing there so anything is possible.
A lot of people are touting Lee Chin for the other midfield position. He had a good year and Wexford deserve some recognition but there is no way that Chin should get into the team ahead of either Limerick midfielder, James Ryan or Paul Browne. Despite a poor game against Tipperary, Aidan Walsh had a better year than Chin. Tipperary’s Shane McGrath or James Woodlock could also play their way in.
Front Runners: Richie Hogan and Paul Browne
Wing Forwards: Conor Lehane / Padraig Walsh / TJ Reid / John O’Dwyer / Liam Óg McGovern
The two wing forward berths also have a number of contenders. Again, the fact that Cork will probably get one somewhere gives Conor Lehane a chance as he was one of their most consistent players. He gave a great display in the Munster final and also picked off four points against Tipperary. Liam Óg McGovern is in a similar position. He gave some great displays could be the one from Wexford to be rewarded.
Padraig Walsh has had a good debut season for Kilkenny and could yet prove to be a hero in the All-Ireland final. The same could be said for someone like Michael Fennelly. He could be the one like Conor Ryan last year to give a great display in the final and get rewarded.
John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer has been one of the unsung heroes of the Tipperary side. He has consistently scored from play and helped Tipperary to win plenty of games. TJ Reid has stepped up to the plate for Kilkenny in the leadership stakes and has had a great year so far.
Front Runners: TJ Reid and John O’Dwyer
Centre Forward: Patrick Maher
The centre-forward position is all but sown up by Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher. He may be positioned elsewhere but he should definitely make the all-star team. He has been outstanding this year and his return to form has coincided with an upturn in the Premier’s fortunes.
His work rate and ball winning has been phenomenal all year. He now has a much greater scoring threat to his game. He has been a thorn in every opponent’s side and has definitely been one of Ireland’s best hurlers this year.
Corner Forwards: Shane Dowling / Alan Cadogan / Colin Fennelly / Conor McDonald
These are the four main players in line to get the number thirteen and fifteen shirts. Alan Cadogan’s performance against Tipperary may work against him. He had a great year up until the semi-final and the failure to deliver on the big stage may see him miss out. Shane Dowling had a better year than Cadogan overall and his performances should be rewarded.
Colin Fennelly has also had an excellent season and still has the biggest game of the year to play. Like TJ Reid, he has stood up to the plate in the leadership stakes in the Kilkenny attack and his direct running and score taking have been very good. I May sound like a broken record with Wexford, but one player will probably get in and it could be Conor McDonald who caused huge trouble for defences this summer.
Front Runners: Shane Dowling and Colin Fennelly
Full Forward: Seamus Callanan
There should be absolutely no doubt that Callanan will be in this year’s all-star team with full-forward his most likely spot. Much like Tipperary, he had been heavily criticised. His talent was never in question but his ability perform on the big day was doubtful. He has turned up this year with 3-08 against Galway and 2-04 against Cork to answer many critics.
His acid test still lies ahead of him when he goes toe to toe with Kilkenny and JJ Delaney in the All-Ireland final. But regardless of his All-Ireland final performance, Callanan should get an all-star this year.
Hurler of the Year
If Kilkenny win – Richie Hogan
If Tipperary win – Seamus Callanan, Brendan Maher or Padraic Maher
The award of Hurler of the Year will more than likely come down to whichever team lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup. A win for Kilkenny will almost certainly see Richie Hogan rewarded. He has been the best so far and could even find himself earning the reward even if Kilkenny lose. His performances have been that good.
A win for Tipperary would see Seamus Callanan as the front runner if he performs in the final. A poor performance by Callanan and another outstanding display from either Padraic or Brendan Maher could see them come into contention, but Callanan is the most probable Tipperary man to win the award.
Young Hurler of the Year
Shane Dowling, Cathal Barrett or Alan Cadogan
There are three possible winners of the Young Hurler of the Year award. It would not be a huge surprise to see the winner of this award miss out on an all-star so that they can be rewarded in some shape or form. Alan Cadogan stock may have fallen slightly following the semi-final performance but he is still in with a chance.
Shane Dowling had an excellent year for Limerick. He showed that there is a lot more to his game then free taking and delivered in all of Limerick’s big games. Cathal Barrett also has a huge chance if he has a good All-Ireland final. He has been outstanding for Tipperary and one more big game could see him receive big honours.
So there it is, the contenders for this years hurling all-stars. It may come across as being a bit ‘on the fence’ but after Conor Ryan being rewarded last year, and Shane O’Neill missing out, the all-star awards are becoming very hard to predict. As stated in the introduction, a lot will come down to who wins or who performs in the All-Ireland final.
Feel free to join the debate by commenting below.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena