A few months back. we put together Ireland’s top twenty-five hurlers prior to the throw-in of the 2014 hurling season. Now that the season has ended, it is time to reassess our power rankings.
Tony Kelly led the way having been crowned double Hurler of the Year for 2013. Will he top the charts again for 2014?
Form is the main thing that gets players in and out of these selections. It is safe to say that there have been many movers in and out of the current table. But here are the players that Pundit Arena considers to be the best twenty-five in Ireland at this current moment in time.
25. Austin Gleeson
The Waterford man was the main shining light on the 2014 from a Waterford point of view and showed his undoubted potential in many different ways during his debut season as a senior player. He was awesome at centre-back as Waterford won the All-Ireland Minor Title in 2013 and saw himself line out in forward line for the Deise in his opening season. His goal against Cork was a clear sign of his class and it will be interesting to see if he remains as a forward or repositions to half-back moving forward.
24. Liam Rushe
This time last year Rushe was further up the list but Dublin’s poor form certainly did not help him in maintaining his reputation as the best centre-back in Ireland. He was an all-star in the number six jersey in 2013 but did not reach those heights again this year.
Injuries did hamper the early part of his season and it was touch and go as to whether he would be fully fit for Dublin’s season. He was one of Dublin’s better players this year and still holds his own amongst the best in the country.
23. Wayne McNamara
The Limerick centre-back is one of the most underrated hurlers in Ireland. He is an excellent player and the lack of credit and attention given to his performances is not right. He has been a rock in the heart of the Limerick defence for the last number of years and is consistency levels are second to none.
He may not be the most spectacular centre-back but he is solid, reliable and consistent which is as important as anything else.
22. Declan Hannon
Hannon is yet to put a full season together where he is fully fit and playing to his very best but his potential is huge and he has shown on many occasions that he is one of the best in Ireland. If he can finally stay injury free, he could work his way much further up this list.
He has the size, skill and class to be one of the best forwards in Ireland. His five point haul against Kilkenny illustrated this.
21. David McInerney
The Clare man remains one of the best defenders in the country and performed well for Clare this year despite the poor defence of their All-Ireland crown. He is an excellent defender. He is very quick and athletic. He also possesses an abundance of skill for a player who plays in the full-back line.
His trademark solo-runs out of a defence are top class. It will be interesting to see if Clare decide to move him out to the half-back line. Maybe he is wasted in the last line of defence.
The Cork man is the sole rebel in the top twenty-five after having a very good season. Like many others in this selection, his potential is huge and he finally seems to really be finding his feet at the highest level.
He was Cork’s main man in the forwards this year from open play. He is not big in size but has deceptively good ball winning ability. His pace and finishing also make him a huge threat.
19. Colin Fennelly
The Kilkenny attacker was an all-star forward this year and took his game to a new level this year. He had been in and out of their side since coming into the panel but this year saw him become one of their main players. Earlier in the year, he took on a real leadership role and while his form slipped slightly towards the business end of the season, he still produced the goods when it mattered most.
His strength of running was very good as was his finishing. Here is one of his goals from the 2014 season.
18. Conor McDonald
The teenager burst onto the scene this year and showed that he could be one of the best forwards in Ireland for the next ten years or so. Wexford made great strides this year and it is talents like McDonald that have really pushed them on. His main asset is his ball winning. He is not overly reliant on service, any type of ball can be delivered to McDonald and he can win it on his own.
His finishing is also very good and McDonald could be a real future star of the game. Below is McDonald showing his talents at under-21 level and he also showed plenty at senior level this year.
17. Seamus Hickey
A return to full fitness and a return to his best position saw Seamus Hickey return to the top table in hurling this year. He was Young Hurler of the Year all the way back in 2007 and his career failed to take off at any big rate after that.
He was a hard working half-forward in 2013 but 2014 saw him move back to corner-back and perform incredibly well. He was inspirational for the Limerick side this year and showed that he is one of the very best in his position.
16. Shane Dowling
The Limerick man is another young player who moved his game forward this year. Despite still being under-21 this was Dowling’s third season on the Limerick panel and most definitely his best.
He was fully worthy of his all-star award and showed that there is more to his game than his phenomenal free-taking. He was a great target man for Limerick at full-forward and he troubled the best defenders.
15. Cathal Barrett
Barrett was the outstanding newcomer of the 2014 championship and was absolutely brilliant at corner-back for Tipperary. Even when Tipperary were struggling, Barrett still shone this year and he put in a string of top class displays to have him up there as the best corner-back in Ireland at this moment in time.
He beat every opponent that stood in his way this year and really announced himself as a top class hurler.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.