After being treated to two exciting and high-quality games of hurling, we take a look at who exactly were the top five performers of the weekend.
On Saturday evening, Kilkenny edged out Waterford in Thurles after a thrilling contest. Yesterday, it was the turn of Galway and Tipperary and the Premier county exacted revenge for their last four defeat at the hands of the Tribesmen last year.
For Kilkenny and Waterford in particular, there were some awesome individual displays. Michael Fennelly was immense for Kilkenny demonstrating huge physicality and aggression. Paul Murphy was his usual tidy self in the corner while both wing-backs Pádraig Walsh and Cillian Buckey gave great displays. Richie Hogan was hugely-influential once again and inside forwards Colin Fennelly and debutant Liam Blanchfield were simply sublime.
Austin Gleeson gave another audacious performance illustrating utter brilliance at various times throughout the match. Kevin Moran and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh worked tirelessy for the cause. Both Jamie Barron and Tadhg de Búrca again under-lined their importance to the Déise side and are sure to be in contention to pick up All-Star awards.
Tipperary and Galway produced a thrilling contest, without many top class individual displays. Brothers, Pádraig and Ronan Maher were rock solid at the back while Michael Breen and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher worked hard. John McGrath stood up and was counted in Tipp’s time of need. The young Loughmore-Castleiney man set up John O’Dwyer’s goal before finishing to the net himself soon after.
For Galway, Conor and Joseph Cooney were their best forwards while David Burke was superb around the middle of the field. In defence, John Hanbury and Daithi Burke gave great displays.
However, here are our top five performers after a feast of hurling action this weekend.
1.Colin Fennelly (Kilkenny)
The Ballyhale man was heavily criticised in the wake of Kilkenny’s drawn encounter with the Déise. However, Fennelly answered all his critics by delivering a huge performance for Brian Cody’s men. The 2014 All-star hurler struck two crucial goals in what a match-winning performance. The 26 year-old’s finishing was remarkable as he left Stephen O’Keefe in the Waterford goal with no chance on both occasions.
2.Austin Gleeson (Waterford)
The Mount Sion man continued his form from last weekend’s drawn semi-final with the Cats. Gleeson operated at centre-forward for the majority of the match, managing to score a sensational goal and a further two points. The 21 year-old’s aerial fielding was one of the main talking points in the post-match debate. Gleeson climbed high in to the Thurles twilight on many occasions and came down with the sliotar almost every time in what was a remarkable display of aerial prowess.
3.Pádraic Maher (Tipperary)
Maher gave one hell of a display at Croke Park yesterday. He set the tone early on by flattening Joe Canning over the sideline in what a serious statement of intent from the Thurles Sarsfields man. He also produced a magnificent hook on Conor Cooney to deny Galway a certain goal. When the game was in the melting pot in the second-half, Maher popped up to slot over a crucial point which gave Tipperary the platform to push on and win the game.
4.David Burke (Galway)
Although he ended up on the defeated team, Galway’s captain lead from the front for the Tribesmen yesterday at Croke Park. Burke was everywhere for Micheal Donoghue’s side. The St. Thomas’ man had huge amounts of possession and dictated the game for large periods yesterday. When partnered by Johnny Coen in the first-half, Galway’s midfield was dominant. The 26 year-old’s efforts can’t be faulted.
5.Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)
Hogan pips Kilkeny teammate Liam Blanchfield to the final spot on this week’s list of top five performers. The Danesfort man was hugely influential for Brian Cody’s side. Operating in between midfield and centre-forward, Hogan bagged himself four points from play. His all-round play was simply sublime and were it not for Hogan’s two inspirational performances in the space of six days, Kilkenny wouldn’t now be preparing for an All-Ireland final.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena