Now that the Munster Championship has begun the hurling world’s focus switches to Leinster.
Here we look at the Leinster Hurling Championship All Star team.
Last week we picked our Munster hurling All Star XV. Now it is the turn of Leinster hurling to face judgement.
This year’s Leinster Hurling Championship looks set to be one of the most open in history. Four teams will seriously fancy their chances of capturing silverware this year.
Since the turn of the decade, Brian Cody has returned the trophy to Kilkenny on four different occasions. Both Galway and Dublin have been successful on one occasion each in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Wexford are without success in Leinster since their shock win in 2004. They were victorious over Offaly on that day, who themselves are without a title since 1995.
Realistically, none of Westmeath, Laois or Offaly will have ambitions of winning Leinster this year. The race will come down to four counties: Kilkenny, Galway, Dublin and Wexford.
The Yellowbellies’ revolution under Davy Fitz has created a wave of optimism not seen in Wexford for a long time. Meanwhile, Kilkenny enter Leinster without the favourites tag in just as long.
Let’s see who makes the team.
1. Eoin Murphy
Murphy’s form of late has been excellent. The Glenmore man is considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the country at the moment. With an excellent league campaign put down, where he was tested on many occasions, Murphy’s confidence is likely to be sky high.
For years, Kilkenny net-minders were accused of having to little to do, often working against them when it came to All Star selections. This is not the case here, with Kilkenny’s well documented full-back line issues, Murphy is sure to be kept busy this summer.
2. Adrian Tuohy
Since making his debut last year, Tuohy has excelled in the maroon jersey of the Tribesmen. Making his full debut against Clare in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final victory, Tuohy has been rock solid. An unorthodox corner-back, Tuohy is more than comfortable on the ball.
Galway are expected to mount a serious challenge to both Leinster and the All-Ireland this year and will need top performances from the likes of Tuohy. If his league form is anything to go by, the Beagh club-player is more than up to the task.
3. Eoghan O’Donnell
Eoghan O’ Donnell is the best full-back in the country at the minute. Tough as nails, the DCU student has the pace to match his strength. Tested in every game in the league this spring, O’Donnell passed each test with flying colours.
He has been on the rise for some time now. He was selected in last year’s U-21 Hurling Team Of The Year, and if current form is anything to go by, is only set to get better. With Dublin currently struggling for form, expect this young man to thrive under the pressure he faces.
4. Daithi Burke
An All Star at full-back in 2016, Burke’s star began to rise last year more so than ever. One of the very few full-backs in recent times to completely nullify Seamus Callanan, Burke’s All-Star was thoroughly deserved after excellent performances in particular against Clare and Tipperary.
Burke had the odd rough moment in the league. Tom Devine in particular caused bother for Burke, but he will be Galway’s designated man marker this summer and expect to see him pick up several main men.
5. Padraig Walsh
No longer just the younger brother of Tommy, Padraig Walsh is an outstanding half-back. With aerial ability second to none, Walsh is the source of many Kilkenny attacks. Since breaking into the Kilkenny side in 2014 the Tullaroan man has been brilliant.
Placed at full-back during the league, Walsh was solid throughout. Restricting Walsh is not in Brian Cody’s best interests, however, as he is reliable for a couple of long range points a game. The Cats will be hopeful Walsh can recover quickly from his recent injury.
6. Liam Rushe
Ger Cunningham will be counting his lucky stars that Liam Rushe was not one of the several key players to leave the Dublin hurlers over the past couple of seasons. Rushe has been a model of consistency for the Dubs year in year out. Experiments in at the edge of the square aside, Rushe has manned the centre of defence for Dublin for years now.
Hurling as well as ever, Dublin supporters will be expecting Rushe to lead the Dublin charges once more. Strong as an ox, very few can contest with Rushe when it comes to physicality. Rushe will be the Dubs’ commander-in-chief once more.
7. Cillian Buckley
Since his relocation to number 7 in 2014, Cillian Buckley has been one of the best defenders in the country. An All-Star in 2014 and 2015, Buckley should be highly in contention once more this year. Played at midfield on a couple of occasions during the league, expect him to return to seven for the summer.
The Dicksboro native’s stand out feature is his athleticism. With pace to burn Buckley is near impossible to escape. Like his partner Padraig Walsh, Buckley is also very talented under the high ball and likely to chip in with a score.
8. Lee Chin
Chin has become one of the country’s most well known sportsmen. Serving for years as a dual star, Chin has also tried his hand at soccer, lining out for Wexford Youths last winter. Hurling is Chin’s true love, however, and rightfully so – he’s a master at it.
Under Davy Fitz’ short-based game, expect Chin to really blossom. One of the most athletic players in the game, Chin has got the skill to match. The real leader in this Wexford side – could we see Chin receive his first All Star award this summer?
9. David Burke
What a player David Burke has become. Making his name in 2012 with some outstanding performances against Kilkenny, Burke has gone from strength to strength since. The winner of three All Stars, Burke has also had lots of success with his club St. Thomas’, even capturing the coveted club All-Ireland.
Burke has got it all, skill, power, athleticism and most importantly leadership. Captain of this Galway side for 2017, Burke will be hopeful that his side can match his level of performance this summer. If this can happen, we may just well see Burke climb the steps of the Hogan Stand in September.
10. TJ Reid
There is no possible way that this man could be excluded from any pre-championship All Star XV. The Ballyhale native has been the most consistent hurler in the country since 2014. At times unmarkable, Reid is well on his way to going down as one of the greats of the game.
Unerring from frees, Reid is one of Cody’s true goal threats and a real workhorse. Cody’s only issue with Reid is that he does not have three of him. Lining out at full-forward, half-forward and midfield in 2016, Reid is needed everywhere. Half-forward is where Reid seems most at home, however.
11. Richie Hogan
What words can be used to describe Richie Hogan? Not being blessed with height hasn’t held him back in the slightest. As was displayed in 2014, by plucking ball over the head of the giant Padraic Maher, Hogan doesn’t need height.
What Hogan does possess is an incredible level of skill and understanding of the game. When in form, he cannot be contained. His displays in last year’s Leinster final and All-Ireland semi-finals were spectacular. Expect Hogan to carry the attack to oppositions once more this year.
12. Joe Canning
Luckily for defences all over the country, this half-forward line will never come to fruition. Because if it did, no half-back line would ever cope. Topping this line off is the outstanding Joe Canning. Now fully fit after his hamstring injury, Canning has unsurprisingly instantly regained his top class form.
Lauded by many as the most talented hurler in the country, Canning has often unfairly come in for harsh criticism. The fact of the matter is Canning carried Galway for a number of years. Now with able assistance, he has been outstanding. The main man of this Galway side, there are are few words that can do Canning’s ability justice.
13. Cathal Mannion
Again we go to Galway for our corner-forward. An Intermediate Club Championship All-Ireland medalist in 2017, Mannion’s spring was topped off nicely with a National League medal. He has received an All Star previously in 2015.
Mannion is one the most accurate players in the country. Likely to rack up an impressive points tally each game, he has become crucial to this Galway forward line. Part of a now lethal full-forward line, Mannion can simply not be afforded space as he will punish you.
14. Conor McDonald
A rarity in today’s game, McDonald actually made his senior debut for Wexford while still a minor. It was a sign of both McDonald’s talent, but also Wexford’s struggles at the time. Wexford are no longer operating at that level, however, and hurlers like McDonald can now shine on a national level.
His potential is hugely exciting to Wexford supporters. A horse of a man, McDonald is a handful for any full-back. His unorthodox left handed strike, along with his aerial ability and raw power will cause many defences huge issues in this year’s championship.
15. Shane Dooley
Despite Offaly’s gigantic struggle with returning to hurling’s top table, one hurler is time and time again selected on teams such as this. Such is his talent, Shane Dooley has continuously stood out as an exceptional hurler against all of the odds.
Dooley is at times a one-man show for Offaly. Racking up enormous scores, he is desperately unfortunate to have arrived at such a dark period of Offaly hurling. Had he been around during the nineties there is a chance Dooley would be talked about as one of the greats. This isn’t the case, however, yet expect his name to be discussed as a star this summer.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena