As is the case every Tuesday, we bring to you a team selection to debate and analyse. Now that the provincial hurling championships have concluded and it is all systems go for the All-Ireland series, we pick our all-star team based on the season so far.
- Darren Gleeson – Tipperary
No goalkeeper has stood out this year. Yet again the general standard has been questionable. On the basis that neither have done anything wrong so far, this was a toss-up between Eoghan Murphy and Darren Gleeson. Gleeson gets the nod for being a better goalkeeper in general, only just.
- Paul Murphy – Kilkenny
Murphy continues to get better and better. He is one of Ireland’s leading hurlers at the moment. It is crazy how a player of his ability continues to be stuck wearing the number two jersey, but Murphy plays corner-back to perfection. He covers his full-back incredibly well, something that goes highly unnoticed. His catching and clearing is immense.
- Matthew O’Hanlon – Wexford
Like the goalkeeping position, the competition at full-back has not been strong. James Barry has done reasonably well, as has Barry Coughlan but the rest have been short of the mark. This might be a strange call to some but Matthew O’Hanlon put in a great performance against Cork and is one of Ireland’s more natural number three’s at the moment.
- Cathal Barrett – Tipperary
Barrett is right up there with Paul Murphy as one of the country’s leading defenders. His pace in carrying the ball out of defence is a major strength to Tipp. This pace also enables him to beat forwards to the ball on endless occasions. His skill levels are also very good as he shuts out the best forwards on a regular basis.
- Cillian Buckley – Kilkenny
This man has possibly been the Hurler of the Year so far. He has taken his game to another level. He is no longer the athletic and dynamic hurler who struggled at midfield and half-forward. Brian Cody looked to shore up his defence and Buckley went to wing-back, he has grown with every game he has played. He has been phenomenal this year.
- Ronan Maher – Tipperary
The heart of the Tipperary defence has been a problem but Michael Ryan looks like he may have solved this with the younger Maher from Thurles Sarsfields. Ronan has stepped into the middle while Padraic has gone to the wing and both players are playing much better as a result. Ronan has yet to really be tested on the back foot yet, but his performances have been very good.
- Padraic Maher – Tipperary
This position was very close between two Padraic’s; Maher of Tipp and Walsh of Kilkenny, both of whom have performed very well so far. The Tipp man gets the nod for showing a real improvement and maturity in his performances so far. Consistency was always his problem, not ability, and this year has seen him been a major player for an impressive Tipperary outfit.
- Jamie Barron – Waterford
The most underrated hurler in Ireland. A lot of people will want Michael Breen in here. Breen has been scoring goals, but his bread and butter play around midfield has been nowhere near as good as Barron’s. Barron was the one Waterford player to come close to winning a battle in the Munster final. The lack of credit he gets is outrageous at this stage. He is an excellent midfielder.
- Conor Fogarty – Kilkenny
A Man of the Match award in the Leinster final appeared the first real sign of recognition for the Cats midfielder. He has been overlooked for all-stars in the last two seasons despite being on Kilkenny’s leading and most consistent performers. He has great skill and a phenomenal engine. This enables him to contribute hugely in both attack and defence.
- Conor Whelan – Galway
The Galway youngster has had a very good campaign so far. He is a real livewire up front for the Tribesmen. He is not the most graceful hurler but his pace and energy is really difficult for defenders to cope with. He caused a lot of trouble for Kilkenny in the Leinster final. He is another player who fails to get recognition in the shadows of Galway’s other forwards.
- TJ Reid – Kilkenny
Reid has not set the world alight so far and isn’t quite at his Hurler of the Year form from last season, but he has steadily been the leader of the Kilkenny attack. His work rate from half-forward has set the tone for rest of the Cats play. He has that aura that Henry Shefflin carried before nowadays, that is how big his influence is on the Kilkenny side.
- Austin Gleeson – Waterford
Gleeson does have to be in the team. He has had a phenomenal year so far and has spent time in such a variety of positions that we fit him in here at wing-forward where he has spent plenty of time. As we stated in our analysis of Waterford yesterday, a position must be defined in the Waterford team to get the best out of Gleeson. In terms of this year, he has been one of the best hurlers around.
- Jonjo Farrell
His scoring tallies so far means he has to be in. 2-9 from play in two matches is good shooting by anyone’s standard. He is not a total newbie in the Kilkenny side. He has seen league action in recent times and had performed quite poorly in those games, but he has performed in the championship when it has mattered most.
- Seamus Callanan – Tipperary
He has continued his excellent performances. For three years now, Callanan has gone from showing flashes of brilliance to being the leading inside forward in Ireland. Against Cork, Limerick and Waterford, he has been outstanding. He is the real leader of the Tipperary side right now. He is the focal point of their attack and brings other players into the game.
- John McGrath – Tipperary
The younger McGrath brother has had a big impact in this year’s championship. He is very similar to Noel in style. He does seem to have more of an eye for goal than his older brother. He does also possess that peripheral vision where he regularly sets up scores for his teammates. The hat-trick against Waterford was his obvious highlight.