This weekend’s Allianz League games have been postponed due to the torrential weather conditions, but with four rounds played and four rounds of fixtures (including knockout matches) to go, we are at the halfway mark.
As always with the league, a number of new faces have stepped up to the plate this year, and these fresh faces will be eager to cement a championship place.
In saying that, a number of familiar names have also dominated the headlines this spring.
Here’s our mid-term All-Star XV for Division 1A.
1. Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)
All six goalkeepers have actually performed well to date, however, Murphy has continued his outstanding form of the past three years. With Kilkenny’s mixed form, the Glenmore shot-stopper has been given plenty opportunity to display his skill set.
The Cats would really relish a league title as they are now without national silverware since September 2015. If they are to do so, Murphy will play a huge part along the way.
2. Colm Spillane (Cork)
The Rebels have seen a dip in form the past three games, with all three ending in defeat. That hasn’t stopped Castlelyons native Colm Spillane continuing his excellent 2017 form and shining once again.
It appears highly-likely that the Rebels will find themselves in a relegation battle with Waterford and Spillane, alongside his also in-form partner Sean O’Donoghue, will need to be in top-form.
3. Liam Ryan (Wexford)
The Yellowbellies have shocked the hurling world with three wins from four. The rock at the heart of the Wexford defence is Liam Ryan who has shone in Davy Fitzgerald’s sweeper system, aided by Shaun Murphy.
Like their near-neighbours Kilkenny, Wexford would benefit hugely from a historic league title. Ryan will no doubt be kept busy on Wexford’s aim in doing so.
4. Seadna Morey (Clare)
It’s hard to believe just how long Clare’s Seadna Morey has been around at this point, but under current management it looks as though Morey is finally peaking for the Banner. The athleticism of the Sixmilebridge defender is a huge benefit to the team.
Though Morey has actually been operating at half-back, we had to include the 24-year-old in the side such has been his form.
5. Pádraig Maher (Tipperary)
The first of what would potentially be the strongest half-back line in the history of hurling, Maher is just the model of consistency at this point. The Thurles Sars man appears unbeatable at times much to the misery of opposition sides.
Maher and Tipperary will have their eyes firmly fixed on Liam MacCarthy this summer, and no doubt the five-time All-Star will be a key component in this plan.
6. Tadhg de Búrca (Waterford)
One of the few Déise men who looks to be performing to his ability. If possible, it actually looks as though De Búrca is getting even better. The Clashmore man has added an attacking dimension to his game, landing long-range points in each match he’s played to date.
The Déise look doomed to a relegation battle barring a minor miracle and Derek McGrath will once again look to his trusty sweeper to drag the county out of a hole.
7. Cillian Buckley (Kilkenny)
The final piece of the jigsaw that is this outstanding half-back line is Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley. It could be argued that Buckley is the most important player in Brian Cody’s squad at the minute. His performances this spring would certainly suggest so.
Buckley offers equally as much going forward as he does through his defensive duties, and should anything happen to the Dicksboro man, it would all but end Kilkenny’s hopes of any title.
8. Kevin Foley (Wexford)
As mentioned above, Wexford have upped the gears again this spring and Foley has played a massive part in this. While he is not the biggest player in this Yellowbellies side, he is most certainly one of the most energetic.
Having predominately operated in the forwards for his career, Foley offers Davy Fitz a new dynamic in the middle and is also an option as a sweeper, as seen against Tipp.
9. Brendan Maher (Tipperary)
While Brendan Maher is a hugely respected hurler by anyone who’s seen him play, in many ways the Borrisoleigh clubman is actually underrated. Maher does the simple things well, which often goes unnoticed.
In Tipperary’s recent defeat to Kilkenny, Maher was certainly not at fault chipping in with four points and showcasing his unquestionable consistency.
10. John Conlon (Clare)
In a side filled with energetic, speedy hurlers, Conlon brings a much-needed physical presence to the Clare attack. One of the country’s most aggressive hurlers, Conlon has been contributing his fair share of scores this spring.
While he has spent time operating at full-forward in the past, it’s undoubtable that the Clonlara man’s best position is in the half-forward line.
11. Noel McGrath (Tipperary)
You won’t find a more efficient hurler in any side. Noel McGrath simply never wastes the ball and is a crucial cog in the Tipperary attack. From the half-forward line McGrath’s vision creates endless opportunities for a lethal forward line.
McGrath’s importance to Michael Ryan’s side was evident as the Premier went down at the hands of Kilkenny last weekend.
12. Walter Walsh (Kilkenny)
In a limited Kilkenny attack heavily reliant on three men, Walter Walsh has carried quite a bit of weight on his shoulders this spring with Colin Fennelly on army duty and TJ Reid just recently returned.
Despite his obvious physical presence, Walsh’s pace is actually quite frightening and has proven a handful in each Kilkenny game.
13. Paul Morris (Wexford)
It is often difficult for attackers to excel in defensively minded sweeper systems, however Paul Morris’ performances have been of a high standard this spring. Consistency is an important trait for any hurler and Morris has shown to be this for Davy Fitz.
If Wexford are to go on to win this league most will have an eye on main men Lee Chin and Conor McDonald, but take your eye off Morris at your peril.
14. Jason Forde (Tipperary)
The man of the moment, the name on everybody’s lips: Jason Forde. When it was announced that Seamus Callanan would miss most of the league Tipp were worried. One man’s loss is another man’s gain, however, and Forde has grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
If the Hurler of the Year was decided tomorrow it wouldn’t even be close. 2018 could be a breakthrough year for the Silvermines attacker.
15. Peter Duggan (Clare)
Another man who is on the verge of experiencing his breakthrough year is Clare’s Peter Duggan. The LIT man is now spending the majority of his time at the edge of the square and is certainly delivering with his performances.
Duggan has been on the scene now since 2013 and will be eager to carry his league form through to championship.
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